Catching Up With Wheelchair Sports Camp's Kalyn Heffernan on New WSC Album, Youth on Record Program, and More

Posted by Billyjam, December 12, 2014 02:01pm | Post a Comment

In her hometown of Denver, charismatic hip-hop artist/activist/educator Kalyn Heffernan is well known. She is also much loved and respected for her talents, her warm personality, endless energy, and the passion for everything she embraces in her life. She is also an instantly recognizable figure. She may only be three and a half feet in height, weigh less than sixty pounds, and need the use of a wheelchair to get around, but the ever-active Kalyn Heffernan (who has the brittle-bone disability osteogenesis imperfecta) is a commanding persona who always has words of wisdom and encouragement to impart with those who cross her path.

The always good-humored, weed-smoking, queer, hip-hop artist/front person of the live hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp (WSC) counts among her many admirers music fans, fellow protesters in the Denver Occupy movement, and the recent anti-police demonstrations in the Mile High City as well as all the inner-city kids at the programs she tutors (when not on tour). She also has many fans in the LGBT community won over by her out, loud, and proud positive attitude as witnessed in the WSC song "Madd" with the lyrics, "Everyone here is mad / Everyone here is queer and perfectly glad!"

The Denver Colorado artist's accolades are lengthy. She's been featured in her hometown's The Denver Post a few times, been featured in Spin, Vice, and the Huffington Post, as well as gracing the cover of the NYC weekly The Village Voice in 2011 when she only had some demos and no album yet. In September she was among the contributors in the ten-day NYC arts festival Photoville where her video piece 4TheHomies (see below) was part of the exhibit. As a teacher/mentor she works in a couple of youth empowerment programs including Youth on Record at Youth Media Studios where various areas of music production are taught with an emphasis on hip-hop and its four elements (see video interview below that I conducted with her recently at the space).

As activist she has been a key player in Denver's Occupy movement and more recently has gone to the protest front lines to air her grievances against police misconduct, showing solidarity with Ferguson and Staten Island, as well as protesting Denver's summer 2014 police killing of Ryan Ronquillo at the hands of DPD (at a funeral no less!). Chris Bagley, who made the acclaimed documentary Wesley Willis's Joy Rides, is currently in production on a documentary on Kalyn (he also directed the video for WSC's "Dance Off" earlier this year).
The 27-year-old Kalyn was born in Denver, but when she was six months her family up and moved to Los Angeles. She returned to Colorado by the age of nine when she had already caught the hip-hop bug. By age twelve she was writing her own rhymes. After mastering the mic, she started making her own beats and handling her own productions. But then she hooked up with the live musicians that make up Wheelchair Sports Camp. The group name is inspired by the weeklong non-profit Rocky Mountain Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp for kids ages 6 to 18 that she attended for years. The camp currently buses in kids from all across Denver with typically a few hundred kids in attendance. To Kayln, who proudly bears a stomach tattoo with the words CRIP LIFE in large letters, it's all about giving back and helping others strive towards their dreams.

I have had her as a guest on my radio show a couple of times and seen her in concert a few times including in 2013 when I first featured her here on the Amoeblog following a concert with WSC in NYC.  In September, I saw her in concert in Denver at the Funstible 4 festival where she was joined only by WSC's Joshua Trinidad on trumpet and effects with her playing backing beats off her laptop as she rapped a set of crowd-pleasing covers of '90's hip-hop.  Growing up, Kalyn's favorites were TLC, who she still loves and covered in that set along with other jams such as the Luniz dank anthem "I Got 5 On It," which went down very well in weed-friendly Colorado. A more recent, non-nineties cover - but as much of a crowd favorite at that same Denver show - was her version of "My Vagina Ain't Handicapped" (video below . The song is a cover of the late Bay Area MC Meals On Wheels (aka Laura Martinez AKA CrippleWithSwag) who posted the YouTube viral video back in 2011. Before performing the song, Kalyn shared with the audience how she had asked Meals On Wheels permission to perform the song, explaining that she had a form of MS. Then she laughed how the song "makes absolutely no sense but I fuckin' love it" before launching into the raunchy but humorous and empowering rap with lyrics like "...I don’t keep it real, you know I gotta keep it wheels, Laughing at the hoochies that are walking in their heels. …So pop a squat and cop a feel; this’ll be hard to top. Not only offer great sex, but best spots in parking lots."
Currently Heffernan is in the studio putting the final touches to the forthcoming WSC debut full-length album, which will be entitled No Big Deal. As well as Kalyn (MC/producer) and Joshua Trinidad (trumpet), WSC's lineup includes Gregg Ziemba (drums), Mike Brown (bass), Everai (DJ), Qknox (beats), and Rubedo. Other contributors will include Fast4ward and Egatz, with production handled by the legendary late Ikey Owens, who died tragically in October following a heart attack. Watch this space for future updates.


Wheelchair Sports Camp "Dance Off" (2014)

Wheelchair Sports Camp (WSC) "My Vagina Ain't Handicapped" (2011)

WSC "4TheHomies" (2014)

Kalyn Heffernan interview (2014)

Relevant Tags

Youth Media (1), Crip Life (1), Krip Hop (4), Leroy Moore (23), Kalyn Heffernan (8), Wheelchair Sports Camp (10), Wsc (6), Denver (6), Youth On Record (1)