My Q&A With An ASL Interpreter Who Raps In Sign Language

How would you like to rap alongside Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, or Future?

Because that’s what Amber Galloway-Gallego is doing, except she’s doing it with American Sign Language.

Galloway-Gallego, who says she once wished to be the “first white female rapper,” is a nationally certified ASL interpreter with over 14 years of interpreting experience. She translates music into sign language so the deaf community can better enjoy live concerts.

Over the years she’s parlayed this into a career as a kind of arena interpreter for the stars, amassing a resume of over 400 artists ranging from Adele to Billy Joel, Destiny’s Child, the list goes on and across myriad genres.

In addition to expressing the emotion and tonality of the music, she is responsible for interpreting lyrics into ASL, which is more difficult than it sounds.


Interested in learning ASL? This seems like a good book to start with: Learn American Sign Language


ASL is its own language with its own rules for grammar — you can’t just take the lyrics of “She Loves You” by The Beatles and sign every word as Paul McCartney sings them.

Galloway-Gallego has to actually interpret one language into another, English to ASL.

And that’s where things get difficult. That’s where she has to get creative, i.e. pantomiming a character shooting-up on Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ infamous heroin undercurrent on the hook of “Under the Bridge.”

Below is a Q&A I did with Galloway-Gallego for SongLyrics.com via email (link to the original article at the bottom).


More on Galloway-GallegoThis Woman Is Rapping Kendrick Lamar Songs In Sign Language


What were some songs (besides ‘The Monster’) that were difficult to interpret and why?

“Rap God” was by far the hardest song I have ever had to interpret because of the incredible genius Eminem is, how to make equivalents in ASL, and to truly represent him and his goal for the audience is always a challenge with keeping in mind the sheer speed he raps in that song. It took me two months to break it down. Rap is always a difficult task but I respect the culture and the artist so much that I do not mind doing extra homework.

What is your process for interpreting a song? I imagine each song has its own challenges.

So this is what I typically do. I first research who the artist is. I use several different websites. I then listen to the artist, hear the pace, the way they form words and concepts and then I look at lyrics to make sure I hear it correctly. I am hard of hearing so I have to truly memorize the lyrics. I then take the song and make pictures in my head of what emotions are being evoked, what should each character look like, then deliver that to the Deaf audience.

What do you hope for the future of music accessibility for deaf folks?

That all venues will provide professional music interpreters and stop making Deaf people fight for their basic human rights, which is access to the communication. Deaf people fight daily for access and it has to stop.

Who is your favorite artist to interpret and why?

My favorite artist is whoever I am interpreting at that moment. I have to love them because they are being represented on my hands and the Deaf fans deserve that and so does the artist. [O]n my song list when I am not prepping for a show, you will hear me jamming to Queen Latifah, 2Pac, Melissa Etheridge, Tegan and Sara, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fleetwood Mac … I am extremely eclectic.


A version of this article was originally published on SongLyrics.com

Here’s Why Michael Phelps Is Always Listening To Music

When he broke the record for the 10,000-meter run, Haile Gebrselassie had sync’d his jog to the beat of “Scatman” by Scatman John.

“I [broke] many records with the ‘Scatman’ song,” Gebrselassie told The Guardian. “…If you watch back some of my world records you can hear ‘Scatman’ in the background. The rhythm was perfect for running.”

And he’s not the only athlete to do this — watch the pre-game for any sporting event and you’ll see athletes walking around with headphones on, getting in the zone.

And the best swimmer in the world, Michael Phelps, is no exception. And you know what, he’s got scientific reasons for this.

Researchers have found that syncing your music to your exercise can increase skill and performance. They’ve proven that music distracts endurance athletes from fatigue and pain and increases athletes’ endurance by 15%.

Athletes use music to get in the zone for good reason. Maybe that’s why Phelps is the best.


RELATED: 3 Ways Music Can Help Your Brain Function Better


Phelps, a 24-time Olympic gold medalist, has headphones on every minute he’s not in the pool. And according to the New York Times, Phelps listens to Eminem, Young Jeezy, and Eric Church while getting in the zone before a big swim.

Music and the brain
Michael Phelps (left) is in the zone

“That song [“Right Above It” by Lil Wayne] made me want to finish strong and look forward to life after swimming,” Phelps once said.

During the 2016 Olympics, he talked about the affect of music on his pre-race warm-up.

“I was just trying to really get going and really get amped right before I would walk out,” he told People. “And [the music] helped a lot.”

So whether you’re Michael Phelps, Haile Gebrselassie, or just a person who considers going to the fridge exercise (ahem…me), listen to music while you do what you’re doing.

It will help.

This Woman Is Rapping Kendrick Lamar Songs In Sign Language

Amber Galloway Gallego is an American Sign Language interpreter. But she’s not just any ASL interpreter — she translates music to sign in her own special way.

Literally. She’s mastered this special method of signing.

Amber Galloway Gallego and Kendrick Lamar
Amber Galloway Gallego and Kendrick Lamar (photo via Priceonomics)

Amber has interpreted over 400 concerts, including for Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Future, and so many  more.

“That’s the whole reason we go to music events — is to be a part of this experience and forget about the reset of the world and be there in that moment,” Amber says in the video below. “And so many times, deaf people are not allowed that experience because we as hearing people choose to say ‘no.'”

Check out this fascinating video about how it works (note: this video has the F-word in it)…

Not something you’ve thought about before, right? Yeah, me neither. 

Because of people like Amber, everyone can enjoy music — even the people whom we often assume cannot. Yet again, the power of music breaks down barriers and breaks into people’s lives.

If you want to see her in action at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, check out the video below…