The Wisdom of the Saint

As himself and Apostle, Jeff Campbell embodies two personas. Both of them want to write Denver's hip-hop gospel.

After that, though, it's every playa for himself. "If I help you reach the same level of visibility, then the cream rises to the top," he says. "The consumer will decide."

Apostle assumes he is the cream. So if the coalition ever gets going, it might come across as merely a publicity machine for him. That's a possibility, Campbell concedes, but he can't help it if he turns out to be better than the rest. "Everybody's not gonna like what I do," he says, "but if more people like what I did, maybe you should look at what I did."

The man behind the mask: For Jeff Campbell, aka Apostle, life as an MC can be a real gas.
Brett Amole
The man behind the mask: For Jeff Campbell, aka Apostle, life as an MC can be a real gas.


9 p.m. Saturday, April 1

$5 students/$7 non-students


Tivoli, 900 Auraria Parkway

"Webster's defines 'apostle' as a leader or advocate of a new cause," Apostle says. "I don't think my cause is new, but I think my approach is. It's new because it's a representation of unclaimed territory in the hip-hop world, and that's Colorado."

He defines himself as both Apostle and Jeff Campbell. Jeff Campbell. Apostle. Two distinct personalities. "Apostle is an alter ego. Jeff is a person who struggles to get things done." Despite that, Apostle has chosen Jeff to represent him. Confusing, isn't it?

Just ask the industry folks whom Campbell deals with. He calls them up and tells them he's representing a young Denver rapper named Apostle, never letting on that he is Apostle. "Sometimes they don't take you seriously when you're the artist representing yourself," he explains. So far, it seems, they haven't caught on, which is probably good for him. "Sometimes," he adds, "I'm surprised they're two people."

Campbell is originally from Decatur, Alabama, but he's spent most of his life in Boulder; his father, who worked for IBM, was transferred there in 1972. Writing stories and poems came early and easy. His father helped him memorize a piece about Paul Revere's famous ride by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the second grade. In school, he participated in theater and speech and won three state championships in debate, placing in the top ten nationally all three years. He acted as well: Chino in West Side Story, Brutus in Julius Caesar. Though he was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena following high school, he didn't receive any financial aid and wound up not attending. He decided to go to California anyway -- in 1989 at the age of eighteen -- to "become a famous rap star."

Instead, Campbell struggled. He lived in an abandoned house in Sacramento, hooking up the electricity there with jumper cables. "I didn't want to swallow my pride and say I failed," he says. He spent a few months living on the streets, reading books in the library during the day. "In the time I was homeless I did a lot of self-education, a lot of Bible reading, a lot of spiritual research into cultures and religions across the world."

A job at a Sacramento label, Black Market Records, got him working again. He did marketing, calling record stores across the country, trying to push product that wasn't his. It taught him about the business but brought him no closer to his own dreams of stardom. Besides, California was an insular place. They took care of their own but didn't bother much with out-of-staters. "I did not fit in with what they were trying to do," he says.

Gangsta rap was hot; he didn't dig it and was ostracized. So Campbell returned to Colorado in 1993 and started Cuttin' Crew Records Inc. with a partner named Gary Martinez. The label was the first in Denver, he says, to have its own logo and publishing company; it signed a national distribution deal with BMG Latin. But in addition to producing Latin albums, the label also began to produce gangsta rap, and so Apostle walked away.

For all the missed opportunities, Apostle appears calm and focused. In addition to frying up catfish at Brother Jeff's, Apostle offers a hip-hop commentary called Survival Camp 101 Sunday nights on Boulder's KGNU 88.5 FM. Maybe it's the spiritual side of the "chosen one" that keeps him level -- Campbell finds much continuity in all the religions. "Wilderness Warriors" begins with this line: "The presence of God is everywhere/You have only to consciously embrace it with your intention."

Apostle wears an ohm ring, a Hindu symbol representing the sound of the creation of the universe. "Everything in life has a beat, a rhythm," he says. "To understand rhythm is to understand life. To understand yourself is to understand the universe."

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