Posted: July 21, 2011
interviewed by Chris Richards July 2011
With an extensive tour history around the US in festivals and clubs with his former band Heavyweight Dub Champion, Jeff Campbell (Apostle) has earned his stripes as a live show veteran. He has additionally cultivated undeniable name recognition in his hometown of Denver CO. for his work as a grassroots community activist, performance poet, ghostwriter, and performer.
We are excited to bring you this interview, talking to Jeff about his experiences using music as a tool for change. Enjoy!
Can you give us a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?
My name is Jeff Campbell, my stage name is APOSTLE. I am Hip Hop and spoken word artist who has been writing, recording and performing professionally for almost 2 decades. I released my first recording in 1994, and have released a total of 4 albums as a solo artist. I have also released 2 albums with my former group, Heavyweight Dub Champion. When I’m not on the road or in the studio, I am the director of Health and Wellness at the Girls Athletic Leadership School in Denver, Colorado, my home town.
What Goals do you have with your art and its impact on the world?
First and foremost I want to make good music that people enjoy listening and dancing to. Secondly I’d like for people to hear my lyrics and be inspired to transform themselves in such a way, that they are better off by the musical experience. I would also like for my music to enable me to reach as many people as possible so that I can be an inspiration for them.
Ideally, what experience or impact would an audience member take away from your live performance?
Everyone is different, some people may just appreciate the music, and others would take an idea that was expressed in the music and act on it. Someone may even begin to create music or art themselves as a result of the experience. All of these instances are ideal for me. I would love for my music to be the soundtrack to the revolution of course, but is this realistic? It would be great if people who feel called to take action in social justice movements were to become inspired by my work as an artist, but mostly I’m inspired as an artist by them.
What place does art & creativity have within building a resistance movement?
I feel the masses of people are uninspired by movements of today because they are jaded from being let down time and again. Just when we feel there is progress, oppression takes on different forms. We often take a step forward, only to feel as though we have taken several steps back. Music, art, creative self- expression can give us the charge to regroup, to revitalize our energy and see through the struggle. Another function of music in movement work is often the artist becoming a spokesperson for a particular cause. This can inspire people who were not inspired before. Musicians often reach beyond the normal crowd of activists to inspire those who did not see themselves as activists before. This is the type of artist I strive to be, the kind of artist that makes people stand up for justice.
Do you have any favorite pieces or experiences you’d like to talk about?
Over the years I’ve had many people say they were inspired by my performances, which is encouraging. I’ve been a mentor to many younger artists, and I’ve had the honor of working with some of the biggest names in Hip Hop.
You’ve worked with youth as an educator and non-profit owner, how does this work inform your art and vise versa?
Working with youth, I had the opportunity to converse with young people and get their perspectives on the new sounds, which artists are hot, what makes them hot and so on. I was also able to hear young artists in early stages of development, honing their skills, and I gave them advice on their art and the music business. What I received most of all was an inside look on the public education system and the problematic way that it functions. I observed firsthand how this disproportionately affects students of color and low income families. As a nonprofit founder and director, I saw how this system fails as well, because the organizations are mainly there to provide needs for the people in which they serve, not empower them to provide needs for themselves. Also, it was very difficult to serve the youth who needed the program the most.
Do you feel that using your art for social and political purpose has been successful? How so?
The success I experienced was serving thousands of youth from low income areas in a way that allowed them to be artistically expressive. As far as performing was concerned, I believe I was successful in getting a message out through music, but that message was not attached to a tangible movement, and in that way I was not successful. A pop artist can offer the masses music that has no substance, and his talent is then exploited by mass media and corporations. That enables the pop artist to gain name recognition, a following and large amounts of money. With that powerful combination, you can create a movement more effectively. If I were to do it all over again, I would learn from those who were successful in that way in order to create measurable social change.
Do you have advice for other artists looking to use their talent for political purposes?
What’s most important is the self-respect that you have and to be respected by those who love your music, concentrate on that and ignore anyone who says you cannot do it.
For information on Jeff Campbell, please visit the following sites: