"I instinctively put rhythm to it in order to better memorize it," he said of the reading. "I started writing my own poetry a few years later."
Now, some 25 years after his first "live performance," A.P.O.S.T.L.E (real name Jeff Campbell) has become a widely celebrated member of the hip-hop community and beyond. He's done most of his touring with his former band Heavyweight Dub Champion, although he's currently on the road with the heavily hyped DJ Quest.
"We both want to break the mold of the traditional hip-hop live performance without having to apologize or make excuses," A.P.O.S.T.L.E said.
Breaking that mold for A.P.O.S.T.L.E means bringing a focused, positive message for change. His roots as an artist trace back to Denver, where he became a highly influential performance poet, songwriter, vocalist and community activist.
Although he'll be in Bend to share his message via his vocals, A.P.O.S.T.L.E made a huge mark in his home state as an educator and social activist. For the better part of the last decade he served as the director of his own nonprofit organization known as the Colorado Hip Hop Coalition. Under his direction, CHHC raised nearly $200,000 and served more than 5,000 at-risk youth through workshops and after-school programs throughout Colorado.
"The organization introduced the right people to each other, and established the credibility of hip-hop education as a means to literacy, technological literacy, cultural-artistic expression, preservation and entrepreneurship," A.P.O.S.T.L.E said. "Hip-hop taught me all of that, and it continues to teach and inspire youth all over the world."
A.P.O.S.T.L.E recently relocated to the Bay Area to work on creating music and the message he can spread through a live performance.
"Every night it's a new experience," he said. "There's a lot of room for improvisation. There's a lot of freedom."
His latest album, Lyrical Activism, hit the shelves this week and is the main nerve pumping the tour. The album received some serious hype in the underground hip-hop world and don't be surprised to hear a track or two pop up on independent radio, which in some locales might mean Internet radio.
As a member of Heavyweight Dub Champion, A.P.O.S.T.L.E. helped dish out the at-times lofty ideals of a band bent on not only changing hip-hop, but changing the world. While you shouldn't expect a set of Heavyweight-esque tracks at an A.P.O.S.T.L.E show, some of these themes have definitely stuck around for his solo career. A bulk of the lyrics on the album take on his current and ongoing social issues such as materialism, politics and the downfall of the rap game, as is heard on the track "Destroy The Industry."
"The culture's in jeopardy/Hip-hop's contaminated/It's an epidemic."
And never one to simply turn a blind eye, A.P.O.S.T.L.E suggests:
"Wake up, show and prove you can do it/Follow me, it's the intelligence movement."
So if it's the raunchy ballads of Ludarcis, Snoop or any number of other mainstream hip-hop artists you crave, you'd be advised to stay home Friday night. You're not likely to get your fill with A.P.O.S.T.L.E. But if it's something a bit more refined and mind-challenging you're looking for, we suggest you start brushing up on your Longfellow.
8pm Friday March 14. Summit Saloon and Stage. 125 NW Oregon Ave., 749-2440. $7.