'first Deaf Rapper' Connects With Hearing And Hearing-Impaired Audiences (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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'First Deaf Rapper' Connects With Hearing And Hearing-Impaired Audiences

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and all week long we've been reaching out to you, our listeners, as part of our fall membership campaign. You've no doubt heard it a lot by now, but seriously, seriously, we could not do what we do without you. And I'm not just talking financially. The people we interview, the stories we share, they all come from the connections we make with you and you with us. And that truly is what it's all about, connecting residents across the D.C. metro region through radio that engages and informs and -- if we're doing our job right -- entertains.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:42
So in honor of our humble mission and in honor of all of you, we're devoting today's show to "Connections."

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:56
We'll check out a program linking people in need with food that would otherwise get tossed out. We'll meet individuals trying to reconnect D.C. residents with one of their local rivers. And we'll hear from legendary dancer Maurice Hines, who's teaming up with some very special D.C. talent in a brand new show at Arena Stage.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:19
But before we get to all that, there are so many ways we can connect with one another. You know, we can send a note, we can cast a glance, we can reach out and touch someone, or in the case of the guy we'll meet next…

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:38
…we can rap. This is Darius McCall -- a.k.a. Prinz-D -- laying down tracks for his third hip-hop album with sound engineer Chris Rafetto. This song is called, "See Me With My Dogs."

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:55
Prinz-D moved to D.C. about 10 years ago, from his native Alabama. He's a fan of Jay-Z, Kanye West, and the University of Alabama football team, and …

MR. CHRIS RAFETTO

00:02:03
You can hear me?

MR. DARIUS MCCALL

00:02:04
Yeah.

RAFETTO

00:02:05
Cool, cool.

RAFETTO

00:02:06
I got the hearing aid on.

SHEIR

00:02:06
…he's deaf.

RAFETTO

00:02:09
You want that like messed-up effect at all?

RAFETTO

00:02:11
Huh?

RAFETTO

00:02:12
Do you want that, like, messed-up effect at all?

RAFETTO

00:02:13
I'm sorry?

RAFETTO

00:02:15
Listen to this. Tell me what you think.

MCCALL

00:02:17
All right.

SHEIR

00:02:18
So, I mean, your hearing seems to be pretty good. I mean, you can still hear some.

MCCALL

00:02:24
Well, I'm reading lips right now. But my right ear is profound, and the left ear is severe, which means I can hear a lot better than the right ear.

SHEIR

00:02:37
And as Prinz-D told me after his recording session, that's why he's been marketing himself as the first deaf rapper. His upcoming album is called, "First Deaf Rapper: Volume Three."

MCCALL

00:02:47
There's other rappers, like deaf rappers, who might have gotten signed to a record deal, but they weren't recording artists. They had somebody rapping for them, and they were signing.

SHEIR

00:02:56
But Prinz-D, who, by the way, is a graduate of Gallaudet University, does both.

MCCALL

00:03:01
When I go on stage I still want to, like, at least show that I'm still involved in my culture. You know, 95 percent of my friends are deaf, but I go on stage, and I wouldn't expect too much of a deaf crowd, if they haven't heard about the show. So I go on the mic and I do my thing. But the problem is, is that I'm just like any other person. So I said, all right. Well, let me do this in sign language. But I can't (makes noise) and then try to sign, and it'd be so complicated. So instead I rap in a more simple way. Easy to follow, but at the same time, I can sign it better, and make a bigger impact.

SHEIR

00:03:41
So how is it different performing for a hearing audience versus hearing-impaired audience?

MCCALL

00:03:47
You know for the hearing-impaired audience, they do not care about the vocals. I think what they want to see is just a visual art. They want to see a lot of movement. It's almost like it has to be theatrical for them so they can understand it. And that's the big difference. But deaf people do need to have, like, heavier bass so that way they can at least, you know, feel like they're hearing it almost.

MCCALL

00:04:13
I've noticed that there's other artists, like deaf artists, they would use TV screens, like projectors or whatever and have the lyrics up. But that's, to me, I feel like a distraction, because they're looking at the lyrics and then they're supposed to be looking at the signing. And that's why I'm trying to be very simple now, because I don't want to have to rely on the projectors. I just want to just be able to sign it and be very clear because I have a sign coach and he says you just be really big and just play towards the audience, then people will get you.

SHEIR

00:04:43
So I want to go back and talk about your history in music. So when did you start doing music?

MCCALL

00:04:50
When I was growing up I liked music that my grandmother was playing, like all the old songs. People were singing, but I couldn't understand them, so I kind of distanced myself from them. And then I got onto rap when I was nine because -- well, my older cousin had a song from Eazy-E, I mean my cousins were like a whole lot older than me so they were playing like some old stuff. and Eazy-E said cruising down my streets in my 64 -- and then when he said that it was easy to catch. And the beats were banging, too.

MCCALL

00:05:21
And it's like, oh, I like rap because I can understand it, given my impairment. But I didn't start getting serious and recording until like maybe after I finished high school. I was in a deaf high school so I felt embarrassed to say anything about music to them because I didn't think that was something deaf people could do. But then when I graduated I just started getting a little more confident. And I was out on my own now. It was like I was making my own decisions. And I came to school at Gallaudet and I ended up having like summer jobs to be able to have some money to go to a studio. And I started recording. But the thing is, as I was recording I was still embarrassed by the work that I had because I couldn't nail what it was.

MCCALL

00:06:13
Like, I would hear everybody else on the radio. And everyone, like, yeah, but I'm not hot like that. I'm like, something's missing. And then after a while, a hearing person actually was very honest and open about it and they said, you need to be more clear. You're not enunciating right, you know. You've got to have some more clarity in your lyrics, you know. And I was like, oh, that's why I was too ashamed to show my stuff to other people. As I got better I felt really confident and like, I really can do this now.

MCCALL

00:06:41
I'm taking standard stage speech right now. But like this, if I take this hearing aid off right now, give me two, three months without this hearing aid, you'll start (makes noise) like I've got pudding in my mouth or something when I'm trying to talk. That will come back.

SHEIR

00:06:58
So just now when you were recording with Chris, when he was talking to you, were you hearing him, were you watching his lips? I mean, he was through the glass.

MCCALL

00:07:06
But, no, I turned the hearing aid up. Up to -- before the feedback starts to sound out, and that helps with my enunciation, too. I used to rap without them. And so you can hear all the -- I won't be able to (makes noise) all the -- whatever.

SHEIR

00:07:21
Diphthongs.

MCCALL

00:07:22
Yeah, diphthongs or something my teacher used to say. So that helps.

SHEIR

00:07:26
All right. So you put our first album, "Southern Comfort," in 2005. And then "First Deaf Rapper: Volume 1," in 2011, and then "First Deaf Rapper: Volume 2," just this year. "First Deaf Rapper: Volume 3," is coming up. You said, you know, originally you were calling yourself the first deaf rapper. But now you've been saying you want to be known more as just a great rapper. Can you talk about that?

MCCALL

00:07:47
Well, I want everybody to understand that I just want to be appreciated for the music. Not because I'm deaf. I mean it's a story within itself, but Tamika Catchings plays for a WNBA team. She's deaf, but nobody treated her like she was. A lot of times people kind of forgot about it. But I just want to be treated as an equal. There's so many people that want to do this kind of thing that are hearing impaired, but they think that it cannot be done. They think that the odds are against them. It's not. It's what you make of it.

SHEIR

00:08:24
That was Darius McCall, a.k.a. Prinz-D. His fourth album, "The First Deaf Rapper: Volume 3," is due out this winter. For more on Prinz-D and to watch one of his videos, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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