DEAFinitely Dope founder Matt Maxey has been taking the internet and the hip hop world by storm by giving the deaf and hard-of-hearing community the opportunity to share the full music experience at live shows and interpreting songs online. Maxey’s ASL interpretation makes it easier for the deaf community to follow along to their favorite songs, and puts his own style on it to make the interpretation even more exciting. Maxey has been featured on GQ, MTV, and CNN and has gone on the road touring with Chance the Rapper and has interpreted for DRAM at Bonnaroo Music Festival. In addition to live shows and interpreting online, Maxey does school presentations and motivational speaking. Maxey founded DEAFinitely Dope to break down barriers between the deaf and hard of hearing community, and to deliver hip hop to a culture that never had the chance to fully experience it before.

Hearing Aid Battery Subscription Service hearOclub interviewed Matt to learn how he got into hip hop, his passion for interacting with others, and what he thinks about getting his hearing aid batteries in the mail.

hearOclub: Growing up hard of hearing, how did you get into hip hop and who did you enjoy listening to?

Matt Maxey: I was ALWAYS surrounded by music! Whether it was gospel, jazz, r&b or hip hop, exposure began at a young age and has turned into a lifelong passion. My love for hip hop began with listening to storytellers like DMX, Jay-Z, 2pac, and OutKast and the feeling of being able to sense the passion those artists had, as well as the mindset to not let the world break you down, that impact punch was life changing from there! 

hearOclub: I see that you learned ASL in college. Did you have the intention to interpret hip hop right away? Or to communicate with others?

MM: I was more so in the midst of an identity crisis, always had hearing aids since the age of 2, yet never really was completely immersed in the deaf community, and going to Gallaudet, a deaf liberal arts university, became one of my first adult decisions in deciding I wanted to learn more about signing and the deaf community.

hearOclub: Your videos interpreting rap lyrics on YouTube are so much fun. At what point did you go from interpreting songs online to interpreting live shows?

MM: Thank you! I always try to show that it can be fun to hopefully motivate others to look at the asl courses they take in a new light in seeing just how far Sign Language can branch out into everyday life. I was actually invited to Bonnaroo and given the opportunity there to interpret and with DRAM being the first show I ever interpreted live, it has been a whirlwind since then! 

hearOclub: You do a lot of motivational speaking as well as ASL Music camps. Is it fun interacting live with people? Are you influencing others to get into hip hop interpreting?

MM: I love to interact with the people involved, there’s so much joy, good energy and passion in the mix that makes for an overall amazing experience! People constantly want to get into music interpreting, but like anything, it’s important to understand the culture as a whole, the role they have to play in providing clarity in communication, and realizing that it’s bigger than them themselves and more so to help the deaf and hearing loss community enjoy music on the same scale as their hearing counterparts.

hearOclub: Atlanta has a strong hip hop and rap scene as well as history. How did growing up in Atlanta influence you getting into the rap scene?

MM: I actually grew up more so in Texas although I was born in Atlanta, but with my family there, we frequently found our way out to visit. I came up during the Limewire and mixtape days and at that time, so much of the music was originating from Houston, New Orleans, Memphis and especially Atlanta with all the dance moves. Over time, Atlanta just became the home where my heart resided from the music to the food to the culture. 

hearOclub: Atlanta has its own unique style of rap, as many cities do across the country. Do you do anything different when interpreting a rapper from Atlanta, versus someone from Chicago? Or West Coast rap?

MM: Every rapper is unique, with a different attitude, style, flow and delivery, and when trying to interpret what they mean, one often has to embody the persona of the rapper that’s being listened to. Too Short is far more laid back, yet with a pimp-like demeanor in telling his story which makes his songs in Sign Language more visually graphic while a Chicago artist like Chance is more fast paced, wordplay on another level, and it’s a lot tougher trying to translate the meanings of all the puns being used without missing a beat. 

hearOclub: Do you wear your hearing aids when you are on stage? Is there anything that you have to do prior to a show to prep? Tuning your hearing aid, changing the battery, etc.?

MM: When it comes to hearing aids on stage, it varies because sometimes it gets extremely loud and I’ll actually hear clearer without my hearing aids. Most times we use headphones with a sound pack, but as soon as conversations begin, out comes the hearing aids to assist! 

hearOclub: Who would be your dream rapper to go on tour with?

MM: For sure, J.Cole! 

hearOclub: Do you ever write any original rhymes? Will there be a day when we see Matt Maxey performing his own shows?

MM: I actually used to, got my first online boost in being posted by Damian Lillard of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers for writing one of my original content and verbally rapping it while doing sign language. The day of doing that for a whole show is still to be determined! 

hearOclub: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! You received your first hearOclub shipment, can you share a little bit about hearOclub and how you think we can help others make sure they never run out of batteries? 

MM: I love the concept! Often times, it’s a nuisance to have to find hearing aid batteries especially in a remote location, but to have them delivered to my mailbox eliminates a headache and makes my day much more efficient knowing that I have back up at all times! Thank you for having me! ??

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