MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — His real name is Marko Vuoriheimo, and he hails from Finland. But he’s best known as SignMark the deaf rapper.
Born deaf and falling in love with hip-hop as a teenager while watching MTV, Vuoriheimo is the first deaf hip-hop artist to get an international recording contract.
“If I can watch it, I can see whether the beat is fast or slow,” he said through an interpreter, “I don’t hear the music, per se.”
Interested in seeing him in person? Vuoriheimo performs at the University of Minnesota Thursday night.
And now he shares that love with people who can hear, and with those who can’t. He signs while his emcee rhymes, with an album he calls “Breaking the Rules.”
“Music for a deaf kid didn’t make sense,” he said. “And I bucked the trend and really wanted to stick to my dream and saw it through.”
The concert preview he gave on Wednesday included something called a silent shot, where he teaches the crowd how to sign a song.
Vuoriheimo has performed in 35 countries since 2006 and finished second in a Finnish show similar to “American Idol.” But he also wants to open eyes for everybody else.
“I really hope to hit hearing people where it counts,” he said. “I want them to be able to listen to the words of the music and hear the music. And I want it to hit them in the attitude so that it changes.”
SignMark performs for free at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the McNamara Alumni Center. Gates open at 6 p.m. for U of M students, and 6:30 for the general public.