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Pigeon John - Slayin' Em

Author: Huwston
Thursday, 31 January 2008
Hailing from California’s glorious Quannum label is Pigeon John, the lanky, goofy emcee who appears quite the court jester when placed against stablemates like DJ Shadow, Blackalicious and Lyrics Born. Ahead of his appearance at Good Vibrations festival, Huwston finds out just how an important roll the class clown can play.

We find John kickin’ back, sipping tea and eating peaches, watching a new favourite TV show called Project Runway, an enjoyed pastime of the rap vocalist.

“I like Reno 911, that’s my favourite. Do you get that-” He asks, and lets out a little ‘woo!’ in response to my chuckle. He also lists The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm as others of note, a perfect lead in to propping John of the role of the court jester in the Hip Hop arena.
“Wow! That’s a great question because the court jester has always existed. In hip hop, you go back as early as you can, maybe to a guy like Slick Rick. His first single was called Treat Her Like A Prostitute, which is serious, but the way he talks about it is in the court jester way,” he reckons, going on to list other characters with flair such as Andre 3000.

“I think humour and tragedy and comedy is in all great hip hop and most of the time, in all great music. It plays with the two great emotions of happiness and tragedy and just slams them together. That influences me greatly.”

Listing old skool references like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Pharcyde and referencing them with current heavyweights like Kanye West, Pigeon John suggests they way they deliver their rhymes are like punchlines, setting them up, so it’s “a clever way of saying the girl’s a slut… it’s so embedded in hip hop.”

Jokes aside, it exposes a deeper issue about the misogyny within the genre and how guys like Pigeon John, who don’t rap about guns or bling, can remain relevant.   

“When people take themselves too seriously, it gets really dull and people stop believing them.”

Swimming in a sea of ring tone rappers, Pigeon John and his colleagues must have a hard time carrying on some days but he remains optimistic.

“I’m very thankful for getting to know hip hop when it was first here, seeing that it is almost impossible to go in the opposite direction ’cause you’ve kinda ‘seen the real’, you know-” He doesn’t blame kids who listen to garbage chart-club rap because they never listened to the first Run DMC 12” when it dropped.

“I think there are a lot of good ringtone rap out there, it can still be done really good,” he admits, suggesting without bitterness that the industry’s choice is what’s to blame. “You know, it’s the male, black, gangster, angry type” – which of course perpetuates negative stereotypes about young ‘urban’ males.

Playing heavily on his role as the keen observer who has a unique and amusing twist on the court’s proceedings, John suggests that there is a very fine line between who is laughing with these guys, and who is laughing at them.

WHO: Pigeon John
WHAT: Plays Beach Road Hotel / Good Vibrations
WHEN: Wednesday 13 February / Saturday 16 February