What’s in a Name? My Musical Journey from Rap to Piano and Back

Back in 2004,  I made up my mind that I was going to become a rapper.   Actually, it started with the idea of doing a rap album.   I had really no idea what that would entail, and was largely ignorant of rap to be honest, as well as totally ignorant of recording music and even of songwriting, which I had never done.  In fact, I was largely ignorant of contemporary commercial music of most kinds, since I had spent much of the previous nine years of my life listening to and playing only classical music.  Yet I was determined, and so I began.

In the process of making this decision, I did what most people in the world of hip hop do:  I created an alias for myself.  I searched for something that I thought would be appropriate.  What occurred to me was a childhood nickname my dad had given me:  “CWiggles.”  I had always liked the name, yet I thought it didn’t quite have the “rap” sound I was looking for.  Eventually, I hit upon “CWiggz” after some experimentation, and ultimately decided to add an exclamation mark to make it really stand out.  And so “CWiggz!” was born.

In the months and years that followed, I wrote my first rap verses, filling up rhyming journals with rhymes of all types.  I started writing and performing my rap songs.  Always for my live performances I would be at the piano playing.  It was exciting and stimulating, and my post-teenage defiance and frustration got expression in a cool persona that I created.  I suddenly became a poet, where before I had been merely a journal writer.  I suddenly became an expressive rebel of sorts, where before I had been merely been a confused young adult.

Over time, I grew more experienced and knowledgeable as a lyricist and rapper.  Meanwhile, my motivation to “hit it big” as a rapper also coincided with me having to go out and earn a living.  As it happens, while I dreamed grandiosely of fame at the mic, in reality, I had some very highly-developed and employable music skills as a pianist.  And so I began earning money using my piano abilities, mainly by accompanying singers for voice lessons and teaching piano lessons.  The realm of professional music called me, so I entered it in a way that the made the most sense.

Eventually, I ventured off into performing solo piano shows, especially at retirement homes all throughout the Bay Area in California.  In this process I grew incredibly as a performer and discovered the joy of playing great songs that people loved.  Despite my defiant and grandiose rap ambitions, the truth is, I was really enjoying simply playing beautiful melodies and uplifting love songs for people.

During all these developments, I concurrently worked on my “CWiggz! Project.”  After four years of performing my hip hop songs at Bay Area open mics,  I left that scene and become focused more on recording projects and developing my skills and confidence further.  In 2009 I began working seriously on finishing the hip hop album I had determined to produce five years before.  At the same time I started taking songwriting workshops and learning more about the art of songwriting.  In this process, I got a lot of great feedback confirming my artistic promise, yet I did not end up finishing the album I had sought out to finish.  Though I was ambitious, I was too perfectionistic about my work, so I never let it out despite its quality.  I was too concerned with making sure I had everything “just right” before I pulled the trigger on anything.  I also had my own doubts about authenticity of me portraying some kind of persona.  I questioned whether it was okay to express all the different artistic sides of me.  I longed to simply allow myself to be me.

I felt like a failure for a long time.  I thought I had failed myself.  Meanwhile, my life evolved.

Last year, 2012, I moved to Sacramento, got married, and started a piano studio.  In that process, I stepped into a greater level of responsibility, and also a greater level of practical use of my music abilities:  I was finally a full-fledged entrepreneur!   Far from the original flashy dream of being a rap star, being a self-employed music teacher contained many of the practical elements of being an independent artist: running my own business, interacting with the public, and charting my own course in all day to day things.

Around this time I started to really look at what I truly wanted.  Did I really need a separate rap persona?  After a bit of evaluation, I realized the answer was “No.”  I realized that I longed to simply let the public get to know my various creative sides as one whole, instead of trying to break it up artificially.  So I decided to drop the nickname and embrace my given name, Chris Goslow,  no matter what I’m doing artistically: whether playing piano, writing songs, or rapping, or something else.

As it happens, I took on a project back in November to create a birthday CD for my wife using songs that I had written either for her or inspired by our relationship in some way.  I realized that I wanted to get other people in on the project.  The results consisted of me and team of other artists and performers who each contributed to recording my songs.  And so I am proud to be about to launch my new album appropriately titled “I Love You” by Chris Goslow, the artist formerly known as CWiggz! and now currently known as himself.   This album tells a story not only of a loving personal relationship but also of my musical journey back to myself.

12 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? My Musical Journey from Rap to Piano and Back

    • Yes, thanks for the reminder, Lucy. Indeed it is not a straight path. The problem starts when we think that it SHOULD be a straight path. That’s how I used to think. I still bump into my own expectations a lot, but I guess I’m starting to really let that go.

    • Thanks, Elaine! So glad my article resonates. It was challenging for a long time because I thought there was something wrong with being unsure of how I was doing things… but now I realize sometimes there’s a good reason for that, maybe it’s just not yet a perfect fit.

  1. Thanks for sharing Chris, Perfection will get in our way wether it is in a relationship, music, art or work. It is great that you became so aware of this. Now you can just let your music flow.

    • Hi, Mary:

      Thanks for the thoughts. Yeah, I’ve been working on my perfectionism for awhile. In fact, I wrote an article about releasing “Waterfall” that deals with perfectionism. That’s also on this site if you haven’t read it yet and would like to. As for letting my music flow, that is definitely the idea! Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Thanks, brother! You have been a big inspiration on my musical journey, it’s great how our artistic journeys coincide. I never would have imagined it would be like that, it is indeed a splendid thing. Love ya, Chris

  2. Ahhh Chris. I’ve known you since the earliest of days, whenever I think of piano I think of you teaching me to play “Right there waiting”. You were always so artistically gifted, brilliant, musically inclined, I knew something huge would be waiting for you. I feel like you’ve set down that path, with that ambitious mindset you have and you’ve been paving the way towards home…at this rate, you’ll be there in no time. Kudos for keeping your eye on the prize, just remember the little people when you get there.

    • Haha, Thanks Jackie. I remember those childhood days of playing piano for you and how much it meant to me that you responded well to it. Your words are much appreciated, and so is your belief in me.

      And what are you talking about, little people?! Lol

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