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DEAFinitley Dope Sign Language Interpreters to Join Chance the Rapper On Tour

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Chance the Rapper wants all of his fans to enjoy his shows, especially those in the Deaf community. Prior to performing in Tampa, Florida on June 14, Chance, alongside Matthew Maxey of DEAFinitley Dope — an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter service — announced he would providing interpreters for the remainder of his Be Encouraged Tour. While some arenas provide ASL interpreters, oftentimes deaf people have to request or hire their own interpreters. Chance is one of the first major hip-hop artists to independently offer this service.

Chance the Rapper makes history with ASL interpreters

Chance The Rapper is making history (per usual) as the first rapper to hire his own ASL interpreters from DEAFinitely Dope to bring on his tour

Posted by All Def Music on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Maxey, who is hard of hearing, interpreted, through another hearing interpreter as Chance said “We will have interpreters at the show, which will be a new thing going forward, to help everybody experience the show… If you know anyone that’s deaf or hard-of-hearing please invite them.” Chance also provided 50 front row tickets free of charge to deaf and hard-of-hearing fans for his Tampa show.

DEAFinitely Dope, an Atlanta-based company founded by Maxey, describes itself as “seek[ing] to unite the hearing and Deaf community through music and sign language, breaking barriers in the process.” Maxey’s goal is to change the way fans experience genres like hip-hop and R&B, making them more versatile through sign language.

In a segment with 10 News, DEAFinitely Dope said it’s their job to capture a song’s rhythm and feeling as well as the artist’s message. Interpreter Kelly Kurdi told 10 News, “We’ve all been close to tears since we met him, because we just can’t believe that he’s willing to provide interpreters on his own.”

Fan response to the announcement has also been positive.

Update: Kelly Kurdi, the assistant manager for DEAFinitley Dope told The Mighty:

We were interpreting for the deaf patrons at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee for Dram. Chance the Rapper happened to be backstage and saw Matt interpreting. He contacted the Access Team at Bonnaroo and asked to meet Matt. We went over to meet him later that evening and that’s when he asked what we were doing the next two weeks. He wanted to bring us in for the rest of his tour and include the Deaf community at all of his shows!

We are a team of deaf and hearing individuals who have come together with a shared passion for music, ASL, and change for the community. We have a deaf founder, deaf manager, and deaf videographer who creates all of our music videos. Matt and I work together as an interpreting team on the shows and it’s been amazing to see how much excitement and inspiration Matt brings to the Deaf audience. For many of them, Chance’s show is the very first concert they’ve ever attended as they normally have to go through so much to get an interpreter hired by venues so they often give up or just don’t even try.

To have an artist not only hand pick and hire his interpreters but also provide 50 front row tickets where they can feel and see everything is huge. We are hoping that together Chance the Rapper and DEAFinitely Dope will create a movement that will not only change the concert experience for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, but also spread awareness about the 35 million Deaf/HOH Americans who fight for access and inclusion on a daily basis.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/Julio Enriquez

Originally published: June 27, 2017
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