Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp on rockin' the mike and making people think twice
Adrian Diubaldo / Photo Roadies
When you decided you wanted to become an MC, was it before or after you became more acquainted with your disability?
If was definitely before. I started rapping when I was twelve, in the sixth grade. I listened to all mainstream. It wasn't until senior year of high school and freshman year of college that I became acclimated with underground and conscious hip-hop, even the old-school stuff.
I knew about TLC and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and stuff like that, but I was really educated on KRS ONE and things like that. I started rapping, and it was more of a for-fun type of thing, but I continued that, and in high school, I was good friends with this guy who was a part of Wheelchair Sports Camp.
He was really talented, as well, and we did a couple things in the studio, and it was really awful. Listening back, it wasn't bad for the state of mind we were in and our maturity level, but it was pretty awful. We were in the studio and would pay $25 an hour, and I'd sit in the studio and try and make a beat or pay for a beat, and I realized I couldn't afford $250.
I started saving up and got a job working at Elitch's. That was my first job, and I just saved every check. I bought my first beat machine when I was sixteen or seventeen and started making my own beats. Again, it was pretty awful.
What is it like to be a woman who also has these triple obstacles you have to get over?
Definitely. Not just being a woman, but being a handicapped woman, being a lesbian woman, there's always obstacles, but I think I get treated equally very well. I think I have to go out of my way to do it. I'm assertive and up front. I think I do a pretty good job at throwing myself out there. People wouldn't come up and talk to me because I'm in a wheelchair. I have to go outside of my comfort zone a little bit to get noticed.
And by doing so, you challenge the comfort zones of others.
Exactly. I think hip-hop is a great way to do that. I get on stage and people see Wheelchair Sports Camp and wonder what's going to happen, and I start to rhyme, and then it goes from there.
What's the purpose of the band? Is it to be an advocate for the handicap, or is it to spread the message of hip-hop?
I'm not really focused on being signed or getting a deal. That was something I was really concerned about as a kid, but now, as long as I know I've reached enough people to maybe think twice about something... They hear my song, and they might take things differently because of it. I do it because I love it, and not because of what people are going to think of it. I do it because of what I believe in.
When I first saw you perform, you did a song you called your one-and-only dis track. How was that born?
That was my point to make it general, but the people who know the situation know who it is. It really is about the guy who I started the band with. He had abuse problems, and every time he would get upset, he would quit the band. I told him, this is the last time you're quitting, and then he put out a freestyle on his MySpace called "Fuck Handicapped People." The album title was Wheelchairs Are for Retards. Instead of writing a dis track, I wrote a dis blog and tried to be funny. I thought about it forever and then felt like I HAD to come correct.