Houstonian building bridges between country's biggest rappers and deaf fans

Pooja Lodhia Image
Monday, March 12, 2018
Deaf Houstonian brings music to those who can't hear
Matt Maxey (right) is working with musicians like Chance the Rapper to help make music more accessible to the deaf.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When you meet Matt Maxey, the first thing you notice is his swagger.

Maxey is a sign language interpreter who works with world famous artists, including Grammy-award winning Chance the Rapper.

"My grandparents actually noticed that I wasn't reacting and they took me to have my hearing tested again, and that's when we determined that I was severely profound with my hearing loss," Maxey explained.

With the help of hearing aids and lip reading, the 29-year-old estimates he can now understand about 70 percent of conversations.

"The deaf community has always been about, 'Hey we want to be a part of you, we just don't know how to communicate with you,'" he explained.

Maxey has always loved rap and hip hop. But he didn't even learn sign language until college.

Matt Maxey is helping musical artists learn how to connect with deaf fans through sign language.

So, for years, he wondered exactly what you or I might wonder: "How could a deaf man pursue an art form based solely on the ability to hear?"

"I realized with me kind of going between two worlds with the deaf and hearing worlds, I have more flexibility than the norm," Maxey said. "So what can I do with it? What can I create with it?"

What he created is a combination of dance, theater, and communication.

As he translates sounds on stage, audience members experience the music in ways many of them never had before.

"It inspires so many people to say, 'Hey, you know what, let me go on YouTube and get the ABCs, let me go back and learn the basics, 100 times, let me see if there are any sign language classes in my community,'" he said.

He now travels around the country, reaching out to both deaf and hearing fans.

"If we can get deaf people and hearing people to come together and learn from each other and enjoy each other, then that's our mission and that's the best we can do," Maxey said.