Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

Joshua Regalado doesn't want to be labeled.

Regalado, 26, of Sonora, is known on stage as Oscar Goldman. He's a professional rapper, but he'd prefer simply to be called a musician.

He also has dealt with physical difficulties since birth, but doesn't want to be labeled in that way, either.

"I don't even go there," he said. "I'm a human."

He lives the daily grind like anybody else, he says, but his grind involves booking his shows, lining up recording dates, writing lyrics and performing.

"The only way I've ever been able to describe my grind is 'bowling with a ball of gum,'" he said. "It's slow and sticky, but I pick up a lot of good flavors along the way."

That might include the satisfaction of booking sold-out shows or opening for famous rappers like Snoop Dogg. And he's done it all while based in Sonora.

Regalado was born in East Los Angeles and lived there until age 7. He then lived in a handful of places before settling with his parents in Sonora at age 12.

He struggled in school, being harassed by peers and even elders for his small size - not necessarily out of malice, but ignorance, he said.

"The principal told my parents I was too small to reach doors to get to and from bathrooms on my own. So I had to start (school) later," he said.

Later, he'd be kicked out of a typing class for asking the teacher "what if you have six fingers?"

He does in fact have six fingers on each hand.

While struggling as a youth, Regalado would find skateboarding as his first outlet for cre ativity.

"I first started skating because it was going on around me and I wanted to be part of something," he said. He was in fifth grade at the time.

Skateboarding also brought Regalado's first taste of fame and success.

He had been attending Merced Community College at age 21 when he met a group of professional skaters. He was recruited and got sponsored.

"All the sudden, I just started getting packages at the house," he said, pulling up a picture of dozens of wheels and other accessories that multiple companies sent him.

For about a year, he toured with them, dropping from school. He was filmed in skate videos, though none of his shots were produced.

But skating led him to rapping.

"That's all we bumped," he said of his skate crew playing rap music. "We'd rap on the weekends for fun."

Regalado said had to be talked into forming a crew, but stuck with it.

Regalado confronted his physical challenges as an artist in his song, "Freak Show," in which he sings "I'll probably be this way till I'm old with gray hair, and I'll probably never get to ride the rides at the fair," but ultimately concludes it's OK.

He encourages audience members to sing along with the chorus, "I'm a freak," then breaks the ice with them after the song, saying "Now that I know we're all freaks …"

He put out his first solo album in 2007 "just to see what people would think" and got a lot of positive responses.

See the rest of this story in today's edition of The Union Democrat.