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Who are the deaf performers at the Super Bowl? Meet Warren 'Wawa' Snipe and Sean Forbes

Snipe went viral last year for his performance of the national anthem, but it's Forbes' first time performing at the big game.
/ Source: TODAY

We can't wait for Super Bowl LVI!

The big game is coming up Sunday, and as usual, everyone is excited for the Super Bowl halftime show, which will star Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and more.

This year's halftime show will also be making history: Two deaf rappers will also be featured *in the performance. Thanks to Dr. Dre, Warren "Wawa" Snipe and Sean Forbes will be taking the stage on Sunday night.

Who are the deaf performers at the Super Bowl?

The record producer added the two artists to the lineup to give moving American Sign Language renditions of the songs that will be performed in the halftime show. Other starring artists featured on Sunday night will include Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

Before the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals take to the field at California's SoFi Stadium, country star Mickey Guyton will sing the national anthem.

Guyton will be joined by actor Sandra Mae Frank, who will perform alongside her in American Sign Language.

When asked what this inclusion of her as a performer during the pre-game represents for the deaf community at large, the "New Amsterdam" star said, "That we are here, ready to be loud and show our talent. We’re not going anywhere, and this is just the beginning of many more to come from deaf artists. We have so many stories to share and work to do. It’s time for the world to open up and give us a voice."

What is the difference between a deaf performer and an interpreter?

 "The difference between a deaf performer and an interpreter is originality," Snipe told TODAY via email. "A performer creates original artwork through their presentation, whereas an interpreter interprets from another person’s artwork. That’s the main thing but for this event, it’s a bit different. We’re kind of doing both but we’re given the freedom to embody these artists the best way possible."

Who is Warren 'Wawa' Snipe?

Snipe is a talented American Sign Language artist who first stole fans' hearts at last year's Super Bowl when he performed the National Anthem and "America the Beautiful" alongside singers H.E.R, Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church.

When viewers saw what the Philadelphia native did on the field, they instantly took to Twitter to show their appreciation.

“I don’t know about yall but Warren “WAWA” Snipe stole the show!!!” one person wrote.

Another said, “Genuinely obsessed with the ASL interpreter for the national anthem."

 “I ‘grew up’ with Dr. Dre, Snoop, Mary J Blige. What I mean by that is that we’re nearly the same age! I love their influence, their energy and their music,” Snipe told TODAY of the excitement performing alongside the roster of talent. “Their lyrics make me think and I can really relate to them on many of the things they talk about in their songs. In addition, they open up doors for me to express myself through my music and through sign language. I use these experiences as teachable moments.”

Snipe first started his music career in 1994 when he graduated from Gallaudet University. He released his album, “Deaf: So What?!” in 2016 before taking on a featured role in the CW's superhero show "Black Lightning" in 2018.

Although Snipe is most known for that role, he has been acting for the past 31 years and has been a part of some small projects like 2014's "The Tuba Thieves" and 2011's "If You Could Hear My Own Tune."

Snipe is also focused on bringing attention to dip hop, a niche musical category that he has pioneered.

According to the National Association of the Deaf, Wawa describes the genre as “Hip Hop through deaf eyes.”

On what he hopes people take away from his Super Bowl halftime show performance, he said, "To inspire up and coming artists to realize their dreams and to never give up!"

Who is Sean Forbes?

Like Snipe, Forbes is also well-known in the music industry. However, this will be the first time that he'll be performing at the Super Bowl.

"I‘m excited for the opportunity to showcase ASL on the biggest stage in the world alongside some of the coolest people in the business," Forbes told TODAY via email. "I have known Wawa and Sandra for years, so the opportunity to be a part of Super Bowl history will be forever cherished."

He added, "Having four players from California School for the Deaf Riverside involved in the coin-toss, Sandra Mae Frank doing the national anthem and America the Beautiful, then Wawa and I doing the halftime show ... this means that ASL and deaf performers have arrived to the big stage." 

In 2010, Forbes rose to prominence when he signed a record deal with Web Entertainment, the same label that produced Eminem's debut album, "Infinite." With Web Entertainment, Forbes released his debut 2012 album, "Perfect Imperfection."

In 2020, he independently released the album "Little Victories," which reached number one on the iTunes and Amazon charts for a hip-hop album.

"Dr.Dre has changed my life in more ways that he realizes When I was 10 years old I discovered rap when I saw Dre and Snoop perform 'Nuthin But A G Thang' on MTV. My love for rap only grew from there, especially my love for West Coast hip-hop," he explained.

"When Dre signed Eminem, that, too, changed my life because of my close association with the Eminem circle being a part of the Detroit music scene and a part of the team that worked and produced him. Without Dre and Em, there wouldn’t be the Sean Forbes that many know today. They have both changed my life. Then, of course, Snoop.... Snoop is my man."

During his career, Forbes has shared the stage with greats like Stevie Wonder, produced seven hit songs and has reached millions of viewers on YouTube.

He's also the co-founder of DPAN, a nonprofit organization that aims to make music for people who are hard of hearing and educate them about music culture.

"We are here, we’re not going anywhere, deaf representation matters, we want equal opportunities," he told TODAY. "To be a part of Super Bowl halftime history being the first performance accessible in ASL with support from the NFL, NBC and the NAD, it shows beautiful things can happen when the right people connect."

To catch it all, make sure to watch the game, which starts at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.