By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Abi laughs. "Right? Tie my saxophone to myself and hope no one steals it while I'm sleeping?" Instead, they're staying 45 minutes away and commuting with a rental car—a motel in Whippany, New Jersey, offered the cheapest locked room they could find on short notice.
You can understand why Abi and Isaac were hesitant to pursue Kalyn's reckless road schemes: The last time they did, the brother and sister ended up with their mugshots on the Internet. Driving through Texas to this year's South by Southwest, Wheelchair Sports Camp jumped onto a last-minute show in Denton, a hugely successful opening slot for activist rapper B. Dolan that closed with the crowd chanting in unison. Back then, there'd been a fourth member, Chris Behm-Meyer, a turntablist who adopted the persona DJ B*Money—he recently just stopped returning calls, as DJs sometimes do. Kalyn and B*Money decided to celebrate their tremendous reception by spray-painting "crappy tags" (Kalyn's words) right outside the venue, in the middle of the town.
"I have a really bad idea of consequences," Kalyn admits. "I don't really think of it a lot because I'm in a wheelchair, and I get off so often?" Kalyn has a medical marijuana card in Colorado; the Texas cops found weed on the crew. Kalyn and B*Money got off. Taking a vandalism rap when she hadn't been painting at all, Jennah spent two nights in jail.
But Jennah is used to Kalyn's antics. Once in 2009, the night Abi first joined Wheelchair Sports Camp live, Kalyn called for a ride from Boulder: She'd had some drinks, fallen off a curb in her wheelchair ("I never wear my seat belt as much as I should"), puked on Scribble Jam founder Mr. Dibbs, and broken her face. "I loved it!" Kalyn squeaks. "When I break an arm and a leg, I'm out for six to eight weeks. So when I break my face and my head, it's only gonna put me out for a couple days." (Her disability causes her bones to break so easily that a former friend once foolishly tried to touch Kalyn's toe to her face and shattered her femur.)
Kalyn has always exhibited a mischievous streak—that's what made her love rap music in the first place. "When I realized how rebellious it was and that my parents hated it, I stuck with it," she says. She was five or six. Her first time rhyming in public was at age 12, at a school talent show, where she rattled off stanzas about the Denver Broncos she'd written with friends. Her first job was in the Looney Tunes store at a Rocky Mountain amusement park; she saved all her earnings to buy a beat machine. For her high school senior portrait, Kalyn posed with a microphone.
Music was such a big deal that her Make-a-Wish Foundation request was to meet all-female R&B trio TLC. The organization flew Kalyn to Atlanta, where she rode around in a Bentley with singer Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins. "My doctor even lied to them and told them I was dying so that I could do that—which I wasn't aware of at the time," Kalyn snickers. "I milk my disability." Like at venues, where her wheelchair became an all-access pass. "Once I found out how to take advantage of it, I wouldn't even watch concerts, honestly. I'd go to all these shows and wait backstage to meet all these people." Performers like Xzibit, Ludacris, Bubba Sparxxx, Erykah Badu, and Eminem. "I was such an Eminem kid."
That's why it's a huge deal that we're all squished into a freight elevator ascending to the downtown headquarters of Shady Records, Eminem's 12-year-old label, which has been recently rejuvenated with the 2011 signings of Southern staccato beanpole Yelawolf and verse-volley super-crew Slaughterhouse. It's Thursday, the third of WSC's four days in New York, and the Shady employee who has come to fetch us through the back entrance is a bodyguard-type with darting eyes and He-Man's ripped physique who's barking Spanish into a cell phone. Later, we'll be asked to use discretion with the office's address. "Nobody knows where we're at," we'll be informed, followed with the anecdotal information that when 50 Cent's career first blew up, Shady Records employees had to wear bulletproof vests to work.
Our escort deposits us outside the office of Shady artist and recording director Rigo "Riggs" Morales. His doorway offers a quick peek at a majestic platinum-gilded plaque celebrating 16 million units sold of 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP, along with a daunting display of Em-related trophies and victory-lap hardware that represent a nearly extinct level of music-business success. "How you doing, little lady?" Riggs asks Kalyn, who is wearing sunglasses, children's size-13 Timberlands, and a Roger Waters shirt.
Riggs shepherds us to a conference room, past a sprawled pile of Eminem-addressed fan mail and the receptionist, whom he introduces. "I met Kalyn at South by Southwest," Riggs explains. "She's a rap artist—and she's pretty fucking dope."
The office assistant is gracious. "You have to be something special because he doesn't take many calls!"