Pigeon John isn’t just one of the freshest voices to emerge in Hip-Hop this millennium, he may also be the realest. The Inglewood native has never fronted about packing heat or slinging rocks despite the rough environment he came up in. In fact, the Quannum MC carving out a niche in Hip-Hop as the Average Joe not afraid to just be himself. Who else in the rap game uses expressions like “Jeez Louise” and admits to being influenced by the Top Gun Soundtrack? The former L.A. Symphony-frontman took a break from house-cleaning to tell AllHipHop.com about his innovative sound, multifarious influences and how he envisions his last show.
AllHipHop.com: To quote a character from your album skit, “What kind of motherf**kin’ rapper is named Pigeon John?”
Pigeon John: It’s like, the more I watch TV or go to different shows, the more I start [feeling] like I don’t see myself in that arena. I don’t see my stance in Hip-Hop portrayed on television, or radio obviously, even a lot of mix shows. For me, I was poking fun at myself: It’s not a good fit for Pigeon John. It’s a little daunting, a little humorous but hopefully it turns out great. Hopefully there’s a happy ending.
AllHipHop.com: How would you define that stance you say isn’t represented?
Pigeon John: I would say the everyman, everyday kind of Joe. Regular dude. Without the hype, and without trying to lean on street cred, whether you have that past or not. My stance is putting my heart into songs and telling the truth, being extremely honest to the point of embarrassment, to let people know they’re not alone. If my guard is down, then I think the listener’s guard comes down as well. That’s my stance.
AllHipHop.com: Every musician hates to be classified or, in you’re case, pigeonholed as underground, mainstream, whatever, but how would you describe your style of Hip-Hop?
Pigeon John: My style of Hip-Hop is unlike anyone else’s. Just playing (laughs). I’m sure that’s very common. I’m heavily influenced. In the ’80s when I discovered Hip-Hop through the radio, I was also listening to a lot of ’80s Pop music. And there was a station in LA called KDAY and they would play Fat Boys and then Madonna and then Human League, Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC. And I guess it was a time when Hip-Hop was a lot like it is nowadays, more dance-driven and party-driven. So for me I never drew a line between what was Hip-Hop and what wasn’t. Duran Duran was a very normal thing to listen to. Then take that out and put in Beastie Boys, take that out put in Dana Dane, take that out and put in the Top Gun Soundtrack. So all of that stuff was around me and my friends. So when I started writing rhymes, I never went either way. I thought it was normal pretty much. So if I try to do a Mobb Deep song, it would come out like “Nothing Without You.” Or if I tried to do a Beastie Boys, it would come out like this other type of song. I kind of made myself a filter so that when all of my influences poured through me, they would come out like Pigeon John songs. So in my mind I’m thinking, “Dude this is a hard song. This is some old Ice Cube stuff!” And then when people press play they hear “Do The Pigeon,” and think, “What?”
AllHipHop.com: The variety of influences definitely come across in your music. You definitely feel that. But in terms of MCing, who are your biggest influences?
Pigeon John: Q-Tip is my favorite MC. Because, to me, he embodies the everyman MC. He was very normal. Everyone related to him. He was a perfect balance of weirdo, b-boy, and to girls and to religion at some point, the conflicting of “Man, I need to live righteously” but “Man, I need to drink this 40 ounce.” He did that way before anybody even considered thinking about doing that, he did it from the very beginning. And his simple wordplay. I’m a big fan of less is more. As an artist I think it’s easier to get dense, or to make a difficult rap, or fill it up with syllables just because you can like a trapeze artist: “Look how many flips I can do.” I used to do that when I first started rhyming. So I would say definitely Q-Tip. But when De La Soul came out, the whole style of De La Soul, that whole thing kind of thrust me into saying, “Fool, I wanna do this.” I thought they were fresh! And they were almost like a mouthpiece for me, being raised in Inglewood, being biracial, and always moving as a kid, I never really fit in, whether it be all White people, or it be all Black people. Everyone’s down, I had friends, but I always felt like, “I’m definitely a visitor right now.” So when De La Soul came out with “Me, Myself and I” and the video, smashing what was the popular MC of that day, which was pretty parallel to right now, it was ingenious but I always felt like they were my friggin’ heroes. And on top of that, their music was absolutely out of this world. I mean, it still stands to this day as far as “Oh I’m doing something different, I’m trying to be different.” Press play on 3 Feet High and Rising. That was made in ’88 [and it] just makes me feel like a fool.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned your song “Do the Pigeon,” so I gotta ask: if one we’re doing “the Pigeon,” what exactly would one be doing?
Pigeon John: Oh shoot. What a good question. First of all, it’s all up to what you wanna do. I sound like Humpty Hump right now. Who am I, Digital Underground? Pretty much do what Humpty Hump did and you’ll be in the ballpark.
AllHipHop.com: So it’s not a nod to Sesame Street? Wasn’t there a Pigeon Song?
Pigeon John: Oh heck yeah, dude. That’s where I definitely got the idea. For me, the song is definitely from the outside looking in. But the meaning behind the song is pretty much being yourself. Doing you. With no holds barred, or not trying to fit in with everyone else. Because I think that everyone is a genius, and everyone is terribly original, to the point of genius. Not like in a prideful way, just like every snowflake is original. I think every person is. So we don’t even have to try. The only thing we have to try is being ourselves. We don’t have to try to get good or try to flip it better than this guy. You have to work backwards.
AllHipHop.com: Besides the obvious promotional and monetary benefits, how has being on Quannum helped you as an artist?
Pigeon John: Lyrics Born was the dude who reached out, cause I got to open for him in 2003. When I signed up for Quannum, I was totally ready, thought Chief Xcel was gonna make all the beats, and I’m just gonna rap over whatever they give me. Cause when I think of Quannum, or the old Quannum, it had a sound. Everyone kinda sounded alike, but not at all. But they had a feeling behind the music. So I thought “Okay, they wanna put Pigeon John in that feeling.” I was totally open with it, who wouldn’t want rap over Chief Xcel’s beats? But when Lyrics Born said “Okay, go for it. Do what you do,” I got friggin’ scared, dude. I was asking them, “What do you want from me? Do you want a Hip-Hop record? Do you want a weird, shave-your-legs record?” I was trying to figure out what to do, and Lyrics Born would not give me an answer. He would just say, “Do you, man, just do it.” So it almost forced me to go alone in the studio so with this record, I had no help, in a good way. Then I realized later all the Quannum guys do that. They don’t even listen to each other’s stuff until it hits the stores. Lyrics Born really helped in terms of saying, “Fool, we signed you for a reason. We signed Pigeon John because we liked Pigeon John, so just friggin’ do Pigeon John.”
AllHipHop.com: What do you think distinguishes Summertime Pool Party from stuff you’ve done in the past?<br<
Pigeon John: Well, hopefully it's a more concise, smoother, more powerful album than the rest. Cause I kinda wrote it like this is my first release, to a lot of people. The older records sold what they did, but I never had a record come out in Australia or Europe or Japan or any other place besides spotty distribution within America. So for me it was like "Let's wipe the slate clean and let's reintroduce who Pigeon John is." That was my goal, and I think what differs is, I was on drugs during this album. [pauses] Just playing.
AllHipHop.com: Damn, I thought we were about to have a Barbara Walters moment right there. So let’s play a little true/false game with some lyrical nuggets from your album. Did or did not these things happen. Feel free to elaborate.
AllHipHop.com: Ice Cube’s cousin said you are the wrong man to mess with.
Pigeon John: True. That’s Del Tha Funky Homosapien. A little nugget that no one’s gonna get. [laughs] That’s just for me and my cats. We’re so underground, fools don’t even know.
AllHipHop.com: You were fired by Macy’s.
Pigeon John: Yes sir, that’s a very true story. A very painful one as well. Cause I still needed to pay the rent and had no money, so I had to borrow money.
AllHipHop.com: You were mistook for Ginuwine and you signed the autograph as him anyway.
Pigeon John: That’s not true. But would that be the bomb or what? Wouldn’t you do it, if you had the chance? I would do it, if it happened to me. That’s a smooth-looking young brother.
AllHipHop.com: You took a first date to Taco Bell.
Pigeon John: Heck yeah, homeboy. You have to. That’s mandatory. Cause if they’re down, they’re friggin’ down.
AllHipHop.com: You rode a white a horse in Texas.
Pigeon John: No. One day. When I retire, from indie rap, that’s how I’m gonna leave the last show. A white horse is gonna come on stage. I’m gonna say, “Goodbye, it’s been great. Thank you.” And it’s probably gonna be in New York City, who knows? Hop on the white horse, and I’m gonna friggin’ ride away.