Most people who hear about Wheelchair Sports Camp assume the band's name is a crude joke. "Sports camp and wheelchairs, you know?" says 24-year-old MC Kalyn "T-Minus Katlyn" Heffernan. Diagnosed with the bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta at six months, the 3'6", 53-pound frontwoman for this jazz-funk hip-hop foursome does, in fact, roll instead of walk, and she did go to sports camp -- where she engaged in some less than wholesome activities. "I was always in the group for the more handicapped people," she remembers. "So I'd bring five of my able-bodied friends, and we'd leave and go smoke pot."
Obsessed with hip-hop since she was six, Heffernan, who has the pun crip life tattooed across her stomach, formed Wheelchair Sports Camp in 2007 with help from saxophonist Abi McGaha Miller, Abi's drummer brother Isaac, and DJ B*Money. Last year they self-released an eponymous EP of after-party jams and robo-voiced ?Stephen Hawking tributes. But Lo-Fi Mixed Tapes (released in March) showcases even broader range: Over Radiohead and Peter Frampton samples, Heffernan ?lashes out in her charismatically squeaky voice against discrimination and likens wack MCs to vegetables, one of many indelicate allusions to disability. (She says she hasn't caught any flak for her snarky attitude.)
Wheelchair Sports Camp had hardly toured out of state before this year's South by Southwest Music Festival, where the crew, which included Heffernan's girlfriend, got arrested en route to Denton, Texas, accused of vandalism and charged with marijuana possession. Heffernan, a card-carrying medical-marijuana patient in Colorado, was spared jail along with B*Money, though the others spent a night behind bars. "Usually cops are cool with me. I act nicely, like, 'I'm an innocent crippled girl.' Meanwhile, I have spray paint all over my wheelchair."
Indie-rapper Sage Francis became a fan after meeting Wheelchair at SXSW. "They've got almost everything ?going against them," he says. "Sometimes that's what you need to make great things happen." Indeed, the band plans to go on tour this fall. "I hope," says Francis, "they keep themselves out of trouble."