The Chemo Kid

Cancer killa

The Chemo Kid: born in New York, representing Los Angeles.

The Chemo Kid: born in New York, representing Los Angeles.

Just days before his 21st birthday, Giovanni Goodman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—a serious type of hematologic cancer. From that point on, life, the sharp, rusted blade of it, would become a series of important choices. Does he close the shades, lock the door and let the shitty luck overtake him? Or does he board a plane to Vegas, have the weekend of his life and return with a grin and middle finger flying in the face of cancer? For Goodman, there was only one choice. And since that day four years ago, that decision has kept a smile on his face and helped him become one of the most inspirational emcees in the Sacramento area.

Goodman was born in Queens, N.Y., and he was there during the late 1980s—both an epic time and place for hip-hop. “I remember the hip-hop scene out there,” he said, thinking heavily about his past. “Before I left, the music I listened to was Public Enemy, De La Soul and Salt-n-Pepa. We all grew up in Queens, you know?”

After leaving New York with his family in ’92 at the age of 8, Goodman found his life relocated to Vacaville, of all places. If that wasn’t enough of a shock, it wasn’t long before cancer struck the first blow to his family. In 1999, after a two-year fight with oral cancer, Goodman’s mother died. Torn apart, Goodman was not letting tragedy hold him back, and he chose to excel in high school and in everything else he did. In essence, he used tragedy in his favor. Then came that fateful day before his 21st birthday: a doctor’s visit and a subsequent diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Goodman’s life would again take a turn into the unknown.

Feelin’ good for a change.

His diagnosis struck him like a blue note—the pitch was low and dark, but like any beautiful arrangement, the tragic note only propelled him forward. Some time between the hospital trips, biopsies, chemotherapy and constant surgeries, creativity brewed inside of the budding emcee. Music slowly became an outlet for Goodman’s anger, pain and inevitable feelings of “why me?” One night while hanging out, he and a friend penned a short skit called “Text Me.” “It was around that time that Soulja Boy came out … and we were kinda like, ‘Uh, if he can make money off stuff like that, we can make money off of anything,’” he said.

Even though it was a joke song, Goodman recorded “Text Me” and posted it on MySpace. “Next thing you know, that week, it had like 1,000, 1,500 hundred plays. … It was coming to the point where I would go out to the bars or wherever, and people would be like, ‘Yo, text me!’ and I’m like, ‘You heard that? It was a joke!’” Joke or not, it was then that Goodman found an outlet for all the emotions—rage, joy, discontent—that had been inside of him. “After that, I realized if I could make a joke song, let me try to take all the frustration and the anger that I have from what I’m going through—let me try to make something people can feel; a real song.” Borrowing the beat from Jay-Z’s “Dear Summer,” Goodman penned “My Life Story”—a lyrical autobiography of the highs and lows in his life. To his shock, the response was overwhelming. “I was getting, like, 50 to 100 messages a day—people saying, ‘I listen to hip-hop every day, but this is the first time it made me cry.’”

The Chemo Kid (right) and his dad.

Goodman’s vision is simple: He won’t stop until his name and unique inspirational message of struggle and survival are known around the world. But it wouldn’t hurt to have some cash flow coming in, he says. And if the money did come, he wouldn’t spend it on hip-hop clichés, like rims and ice around his neck. “One of my main goals is to put my two nieces through college. I want to take care of my family, because all these years of hospitals and surgeries, it takes a toll on a family, not just physically but financially,” he said.

With the realization that he’s now able to touch people with his music, Goodman (now performing as The Chemo Kid) is putting most of his effort into a full-length album. Facing a second bone-marrow transplant and a 30 percent chance of survival, any remaining energy he has is put into recording and getting his music out while he’s still in the hospital.

Chemo’s official logo.

It’s been a year since he started putting his music up on MySpace, and he’s had more than 100,000 plays on his page; his songs have been played on KSFM 102.5, and now he has fans from all over the world. While success came fast for him, The Chemo Kid certainly hasn’t let it go to his head. Actually, he says it’s impossible for his ego to be inflated. “I get, like, two hundred text messages saying, ‘I just heard you on the radio!’ And yeah, my head gets pumped up there,” he says honestly. “But then I have to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to UCSF to get a lumbar puncture in my spine.”