Chuckie Campbell, 31, didn’t get his first name from his momma.
While a youth growing up in Richmond, (then) 11-year-old Charles was interviewed by a reporter after a game of basketball at the Telford YMCA.
The next day, the news story identified him as “Chuckie,” an error his classmates at Madison Middle School quickly picked up on.
“Before I knew it, people were calling me ‘Chuckie’ all the time. I started signing my name that way; it followed me through college. It’s really been a blessing,” Campbell said.
In 1999, he captured local attention as a point guard on the MCHS basketball team — the first team to go to state since 1987. That year, Campbell was one of three seniors to earn a college basketball scholarship.
Today, the college professor and basketball coach by day, and the indy hip hop artist by night, has the opportunity to reach almost 70 million listeners with his music.
Campbell is currently trending first place with almost 29,000 “amps” on the Grammy Amplifier, which is “a way for musicians to share their music and get a shot at being heard by some of the biggest artists in the world,” according to the website.
The more times Campbell’s song “The Streets” is played on the website or shared on Facebook or Twitter, the better chance he has at being heard by one or more of the competition’s “Amplifier Curators”: Ozzy Osborne, RZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan), Linkin Park and Kelly Clarkson.
A song must get over 1,000 amps to catch the attention of the curators. If Campbell’s song is well-received, it could be shared with the nearly 70 million people in the curators’ social media reach.
Campbell got a late start and entered the contest (which started Dec. 12) just a few weeks ago. He spent more than a week as the top amp-getter, fell to second place, but is now back on top. The last day to share Campbell's song is Feb. 9.
“The Streets” is a reflective collaboration drawn from Campbell’s childhood experience in Madison Village and his journey back to making music.
Last year, over a period of 10 months, nine of his friends died, one of which was his artistic mentor and friend, Ralph Prater, he said. Prater died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
“He brought me into rap music and introduced me more fully to hip hop as a culture — a way of life,” Campbell said. The two childhood friends grew up together in Madison Village and performed at local coffee shops and bars. When they weren’t performing, they competed in mic battles at a small bar in the South Hill Station in Lexington.
Campbell released his first EP in 1999 with a Richmond-based group called Soul Sleep. The group released a second EP in 2002.
During the years leading up to Prater’s suicide, Campbell had been a victim of an assault that left his jaw broken in two places. Campbell underwent facial reconstructive surgery and had two titanium plates implanted in his face. His musical career was put on hold for seven years.
“When Ralph passed, I started doing music again,” Campbell said. “It was the only access I had to him, besides the memories I kept with me.”
“The Streets” is about “me putting all of this together, questioning myself, being reflective,” he added.
Campbell is now living in Buffalo and working as a professor of English and communication at Bryant & Stratton College.
After graduating from Central in 1999, his basketball scholarship took him to Lee University in Tennessee where he earned a degree in Communication with an emphasis in public relations, as well as a minor in Religion.
He went on to earn his master’s degree in English literature and creative writing at Eastern Kentucky University in 2007 and holds a doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi in the same subjects.
He is the founder and editor of Sunsets and Silencers, an online journal for the arts. He also is a high school basketball coach at Nichols School in Buffalo.
Campbell and his fiance, Beth Farmer (from Hyden), met at EKU, he said. “And it’s been love ever since.”
The couple performs together at venues all over the country including the Jubilo Music and Arts Festival, which was held in Richmond in September.
Farmer is a country music vocalist who was the winner of the 1996 Country Music Association of America competition and continues to perform today, both with Campbell and as a solo artist.
Campbell’s rapping and Farmer’s melodic choruses create a “musical hybridity” that brings “people from different walks of life to stand next to each other in the same place,” Campbell said. “I think that’s beautiful.”
His music is positive and contains no profanity, he said. The lyrics are often derived from his short stories and poems, giving them a “narrative arc” that sets him apart from other artists. His sound comes from folk, rock, jazz, ambient, electro and early hip hop influences.
His new LP “More Die of Heartbreak” (the title of a Saul Bellow novel) will debut sometime this year, and is entirely produced by Willie Breeding of The Breedings — a brother/sister musical duo based in Nashville, originally from Lexington.
Aside from the Jubilo Festival, Campbell and Farmer return to Richmond to perform three or four times a year. Campbell also comes back to visit his parents, Linda and JD, who still live in his childhood home in Madison Village.
More than 200 people “liked” Campbell’s post about his participation in the Grammy Amplifier contest on the Richmond Register Facebook page.
One person commented on the post saying: “It’s great to see what we can all do when we come together. If you support local music you are supporting your state and your city. It’s about more than just music — (it’s about) unity, respect and support for a good artist and person. Join the movement.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.
Support Chuckie by sharing his song on Facebook or Twitter through www.grammyamplifier.com/chuckie-campbell