Ever since the National Association of the Deaf asked him last month to perform the national anthem in American Sign Language at Sunday’s Super Bowl pregame, Warren ‘Wawa’ Snipe, who is deaf, began studying the lyrics and translating them to ASL, The Washington Post reports.
“I would listen to the music over and over to get a feel of the music and the singing,” the 50-year-old rapper and actor told the the Post in an interview via text messages early Monday. “This takes a lot of time and you want to make sure you’re understood.
The show included pregame performances by Eric Church, Jazmine Sullivan and H.E.R., and a halftime show headlined by the Weeknd, but it was Snipe who became the breakout star, inspiring thousands of tweets and national news stories. It was a culmination of years of work to bring more visibility to both deaf culture and hip-hop. You can see his performance here.
“When you’ve worked so hard on your craft, giving everything you’ve got for your community and they ask you to do the Super Bowl, to me that’s an honor and some recognition of your hard work,” Snipe told the Post.
A Philadelphia native who describes himself as “a rapper who happens to be deaf,” Snipe graduated from D.C.’s Gallaudet University and launched his music career in 2005. He calls his work, a mix of images and audio, “Dip Hop” or “Hip Hop through the deaf eyes.”