There’s no pigeonholing Pigeon John

Joel Stonington

It all began back in the early ’90s, at the same open mic where the Pharcyde and Black Eyed Peas first got onstage. There, Pigeon John got booed, cheered and eventually rocked the house. “People would come from Riverside, San Diego,” said Pigeon John, who is touring with Blackalicious. “It was a dope little scene. It was a bunch of kids in high school battling outside, a focus on freestyling, trying to be original.”But that’s what Pigeon John is all about.”He’s one of the most refreshing songwriters I’ve come along in a while,” said Gift of Gab, from Blackalicious. “He doesn’t rhyme about the same things other people rhyme about.”While going to open mics in Los Angeles, Pigeon John would try to come up with a different song each week. “Everyone was pushing each other,” he said. “I would go up and get booed, and it would force me to get better, come back and blow it up. Half the people, the crowd would start chanting, ‘Please pass the mic.'”At the time, the Black Eyed Peas and Freestyle Fellowship were still playing at the Good Life, but they were also going big and signing record deals”For me, it was fantastic,” he said. “It was as if I were seeing Miles Davis live. We heard about this stuff. The only alternative on the West Coast was gangster, and for us that was corny. And not that real. They were the odd men out when they came and did their songs. If he was a big dude, he wouldn’t get booed off the stage because he was threatening.” So on his first day onstage, Pigeon John threw down what he thought was the best verse he’d ever done. He didn’t get booed. There just wasn’t really a response. “I could see it in their eyes, it was embarrassing,” he said. “It shocked the hell out of me. It’s sort of like playing basketball with players that are better than you.”So he kept going back, kept trying. Eventually something clicked. “I did this one song,” said Pigeon John. “I looped this Biz Markie loop for a hoop. I did this song and it blew up. I could see people look up. I sparked their attention. I got addicted to that look. When they look up and say, ‘Who is this guy?'”Now on tour with Blackalicious, that’s what he’s going for. It’s not so much about the hits or the money, he said.”That’s pretty much why I’m in it,” he said, “that one little look.”