An English professor teaching his students composition, literature, and creative writing. A touring hip hop music artist and performer who uses language to connect with his community and be a soundboard for people going through tough issues in life.
Both talents are harbored by Dr. Chuckie Campbell.
38-year-old, Charles “Chuckie” Campbell, moved to Buffalo eight years ago to start his career as an English professor at Bryant & Stratton College. A second career as an inspirational touring hip hop artist soon followed.
Originally from Richmond, KY, Campbell grew up realizing there was tension where he lived. Drug addiction and crime were widespread issues that Campbell witnessed. From an early age, Campbell was into freestyling, and loved hip hop and sports, all of which he attributes to saving his life.
“Hip hop became my reason to study and read and eventually I got a college scholarship,” said Campbell. “I went away for college and it got me out of a low-income, high-crime neighborhood.”
A few of his teachers inspired him to take the English discipline as a career route, spurring his writing to be more than hip hop lines. The ideals that saved his life turned into a career that continue to help other people as well.
With his passion of language, he earned a Bachelor of Arts on a basketball scholarship in Communication Theory/Public Relations and minored in Religious Studies in 2003, earned a Master’s Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2007, and then when on to earn his PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2010.
In 2011, he brought his talents to Buffalo, and began his career as an English professor at Bryant & Stratton College. He began by helping early developmental writers, and connected students with mentors and advisers. He wanted to help the nonconventional students, the students that needed the most help. That continued to be an impetus into his music and a new scholarship fund he created.
“I think language is a big part of everything I do,” said Campbell. “I like to use my music as a vehicle for what I believe to be social change.”
At first, Campbell kept his teaching and hip hop career completely separate. When he first started teaching, he hid his hip hop career, not wanting his music to affect his teaching job. The larger his music became, though, the harder it was to hide it from students. When he released his album More Die of Heartbreak in 2013, his Dean sat down with him. He was worried for what she might say, but to his surprise, she liked the music and what he was doing, and with that, students started attending his shows. Campbell made sure to focus those shows around a message for the students, the way his all-encompassing music does.
Campbell recently wrote a song on that album called “Pretty Girls,” which focuses on cyclical dependency in relationships and sexual assault. Through years of writing songs about issues, many people continue to reach out to him to share their stories. Though he didn’t have any such experience himself, the song is an amalgamation of many of the stories that he was told by people.
“When you tend to make art that has pain in it, it seems that it crosses over easily and so people that are still in pain will reach out to you and send you messages and tell you stories,” said Campbell.” “I took that story from a lot of other peoples’ stories.”
In his music, Campbell presents many themes. He readily writes about social equality, the breaking down of artificial divisions that create tension between people, shifting away from materialism, and he is concerned about elements of the human condition. He realizes his music can be dark, but knows that the dark music reveals a silver lining that listeners use to connect to their own life experiences.
Campbell tells the story of suicide as well and shares stories that other people have shared with him. Because he tells that story, people send him messages and he tempers deep care in talking to people about it, especially because he’s sharing other peoples’ experiences.
“Personally it’s not my experience, so when I was telling those kinds of stories I have more than just a responsibility to answer those questions,” said Campbell. “I’ve become a vessel for it, instead of it coming right out of my experiences.”
Along with his Taking Back Tomorrow album, Campbell began a scholarship fund with the same name, now in its third year, with the mission to help students in the reflection of what he went through growing up.
The scholarship awards $1,500 to a college-bound senior who has proven through writing that he/she has overcome an obstacle in pursuit of higher education. He started the scholarship in his hometown of in Richmond, KY, because of the large opiate problem there, and is now trying to build the scholarship up to be in multiple places, including Buffalo. Campbell has been working on a big push at shows to fundraise for that initiative. His next step is to turn the scholarship fund into a nonprofit, which he is currently in process of working on.
Catch Chuckie Campbell this Friday, June 21 at Milkie’s on Elmwood, along with a bill of other hip hop artists. Check out the Facebook event here.
Follow Chuckie Campbell on social media: