BY: WESTLEY METCALFE
As a child, many of us aspired to achieve careers that seemed very reachable at the time, such as a professional athlete, a glamorous movie star, an eccentric musician or a valiant astronaut. Though as time passed, we realized that the majority of us do not have the drive, work ethic or the flat out talent to acquire these outlandish goals.
For one former Richmond resident, his goal is no longer just a childhood dream, but merely a few votes away from becoming a full-blown reality.
Chuckie Campbell, 31, is a respected English professor and basketball coach at Bryant and Stratton College in Buffalo, N.Y. Oh, and did I mention he is also an extremely talented hip-hop artist currently competing in a contest hosted by the same group of people that put on the Grammy’s? Not only is he competing in this contest, he is presently in the lead with nearly 80,000 amps (shares and listens) on the Grammy Amplifier.
According to Grammy Amplifier, this contest was created to connect musicians to some of the biggest artists in the music industry. If the artist gains enough amplifies on the website, the judges, composed of Ozzy Osbourne, Kelly Clarkson, Linkin Park and RZA, will share the artist’s music on their social media sites, reaching more than 70 million people.
So how did an English Professor living in Buffalo, N.Y., and a former Eastern student become so involved in the music industry, specifically hip-hop?
Campbell said, since high school, he’s had an infatuation with words and the art of language. During this period of his life, he said he began to write songs as well as poetry and short stories.
Along with being the starting point guard for the 1999 Madison Central Indian’s basketball team (the only team to win the Kentucky State AAU Championship), Campbell also was competing in numerous rap battles around Richmond. He released his first CD that same year, under the name Soul Sleep.
After high school, Campbell accepted an athletic scholarship to Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. In addition to basketball, Campbell ran cross-country for a year, and he wrote and edited for The Lee Review magazine, published by the university.
“I went through a lot of changes as a person during this period of my life,” Campbell said. “Undoing the former model of negativity that had permeated parts of my childhood, and then, replacing it with a more hopeful, positive approach to what was possible.”
After graduation, Campbell moved to Nashville to pursue a music career. He lived with Willie Breeding, a singer/songwriter for the folk-rock band, The Breedings. Only a year into it, the two artists were forced to return back to Richmond Ky, because of financial reasons.
A month after the move took place, Campbell was assaulted. The beating broke his jaw in two places, requiring reconstructive facial surgery. His music career was put on hold for almost seven years after the incident.
“I had to reconfigure my plans for things,” he said. “So, I enrolled in EKU, and six months later I was accepted to the M.A. Program for English and Creative Writing.”
By the time he had graduated from the program, he received the award for best student writing in a graduate course. Also, his short story “Virgil Walks When Prometheus Rises” won him the Madonna Marsden Award for best fiction at the graduate level.
As a grad student, Campbell began his teaching career and carried an eight-course load as an adjunct professor between Eastern and Somerset. He then applied to Ph.D. programs, one of which took him all the way to China to teach English as a second language.
Even after all of the success that followed from his academic years, such as landing a job at Bryant and Stratton College in Buffalo, N.Y. Campbell has faced some tragic events that continue to haunt him to this day.
Last year, Campbell lost nine of his good friends in a ten-month span. Though he was devastated, the sadness he felt helped drive him to write “The Streets,” which is the song that he chose to enter in to the Amplifier contest.
“‘The Streets’ is me putting all of this together, questioning myself being reflective,” Campbell said. “It’s a reaching out. A coming to terms of what it means to have compassion for others.”
For Campbell, music is more than just something that you can listen to. He said he believes it is an art that you should be able to feel.
Campbell is engaged to singer and songwriter Beth Farmer. They have performed together on various stages throughout Kentucky, one of these at the Jubilo Music Festival. In 2011, they released a collaborative EP titled Love Comes Around.
Feb. 9 is the last day for Campbell to receive amps on the Amplifier website. He asks that everyone from the Richmond area show support by going to the Grammy Amplifier website and listen to his song and share it with as many people as possible.