Pigeon John has been a constant in the left coast underground Hip Hop scene since his days rocking a microphone at the legendary Good Life Cafe. Through the years, he has garnered respect from peers and supporters through countless tours and a series of albums blending his love for Hip Hop mainstays like De La Soul and classic bands like The Beatles to create an interesting sound.
Now he is unveiling The Dragon Slayer, a project being released through Quannum Projects. This is the first album that Pigeon John has done in which he is the beat maker and rhyme writer for the whole disc. The man who once called himself The New James Bond spoke to HipHopDX about this new project, touring, hitting “Rock Bottom” and more.
HipHopDX: This album is quite different from most of your solo efforts so far but it still has that Pigeon John style. What can you tell fans about this new project, Dragon Slayer?
Pigeon John: I would say Dragon Slayer is the first record where I produced the whole thing and wrote the music and the words for it altogether. Working with Herve Salters as a traditional producer and writing the songs alone created something different. I loved rhyming over DJ Rhettmatic beats because it was two people writing a song but completely separated. He writes all the music and then an emcee can come and interpret the song a whole different way and make it into a love song or something. It’s like two worlds clashing, and I think that’s a beautiful way to do it. I think I’ve done that for a long time, but with this one, I wanted to put down the music I was hearing in my head, as well as the rhymes and create something original for me, to keep me interested.
DX: There also has been a bit of a slight change for you as an artist. There seems to be a lot more signing from you on this album. What do you attribute that to?
Pigeon John: I think I was always a huge fan of melody and old school music like The Beach Boys. Even when De La Soul dropped 3 Feet High and Rising, they did a lot of singing. A lot of the hooks had melodies a lot of times. I never really heard it. I was listening to the beats and the rhymes but by listening to them, I was studying Beatles songs, classic melodies and stuff. I think it was always in there but I think the more I wrote, the more it came out.
DX: One of the songs that really stands out is “Rock Bottom.” It’s an incredibly personal song, where you talk about how drugs and girls made you become a “Rap cliche.” You talk about being high on the floor and things of that nature. First of all, I didn’t know that you were going through that. Do you remember what helped you climb out of that, aside from faith? Were there any specific moments?
Pigeon John: I think it’s a tricky question because it might be happening right now. But, I would say, I have no idea. I’ll let you know when I find out. I would say the song meaning, the return to hitting the same wall, and that it’s a desperation and at the same time, it’s kind of like you gotta let things go. You gotta start listening to your fuckin’ friends [Laughs] and start all over and stuff. It was cool to put it down on paper. I wrote that during the Summertime Pool Party Tour. That whole process was crazy, crazy for me.
DX: It’s gotta be humbling to write something like that and expose it to the world. You’ve always done that but this song really shows a darker side, even though the track has a positive vibe.
Pigeon John: Yeah, I feel that, yeah.
DX: Why did you feel it necessary to expose that to the world?
Pigeon John: Well, I definitely wasn’t thinking that when I wrote it. When I wrote the music on the QY100, I was like, “Man, this swing is dope.” For some reason, the melody and the first words came out of nowhere. Usually those songs come out of nowhere but it’s up to me to freaking finish them. Usually, you’re writing songs alone all day but three fourths of them are rubbish because you’re writing about yourself so much but once in awhile, the topic is bigger than yourself. So, I didn’t care too much about what anybody was going to think about it but I was happy, like, “Oh, shoot! I’ve never made a song like that.” I was more excited about the song as a song, versus the message.
DX: You talked about writing on the road but I was curious, are you writing during this tour?
Pigeon John: No, I’m not writing anything right now. I wrote some before the tour, over the summer. I started the next record. It’s going to be called Encino Man. This tour has been going kind of too fast to write but I think I’m going to bring a beat machine on the DJ Shadow tour because I’m not trying to get fucked up every night. Enough is enough! I need to start making beats in the green room, bro! [Laughs]
DX: Will Encino Man be a more straight forward Hip Hop record, or are you just going to go in with nothing in mind?
Pigeon John: I have no idea. I’ll tell you what, it’s fucking scary.
DX: Why is it scary?
Pigeon John: Because it scares me! When I hear it and I look out the window, with my shirt off, drinking Hennessy, the beats are fucking bomb, man. Like, I can’t wait to get back to this shit! It’s exciting. [I’m] like a kid. It’s like a brand new bike, man. That’s all.
DX: If you can’t speak on this, I completely understand but for a lot of supporters, Eyedea’s tragic passing has been incredibly hard to cope with. I read somewhere that one of the last shows he went to, if not the last show he went to, was your show at 7th Street Entry performance with DJ Abilities. Can you share a few experiences about him, or speak about how you remember Eyedea and what this news meant to you?
Pigeon John: Oh, um, I think it’s happened so...I haven’t begun to really think about it or see what I feel about it. But, just looking back, you know, green room status, this mother fucker was...He was honestly a poet. He was selling his beautiful poetry book that he wrote with his grandmother and I think the pictures were colored in by his nieces or nephews, by kids. So, it was so innocent. It was completely innocent. I was blown away. You know, in a Hip Hop show, a mother fucker selling poetry books with his grandmother, it’s kind of out of the norm. But, he did it in such a way where, he was always unassuming. On the road, especially after that’s happened, a lot of fans talk to me about [Eyedea]. They share stories about him always hanging out with them, them remembering the shows. This happened just at The Jackpot yesterday. It’s so interesting. He was the first one to go so I think everyone is kind of freaking shook by it. I’m kind of numb a little bit right now.
DX: The news just hit so unexpectedly.
Pigeon John: Yeah, yeah. And out of respect for the dudes that grew up with him, I grew up in the west coast and I just so happened to be surrounded by those dudes that night in the city at the club. It’s just been a ride. I’m very thankful that Abilities and Dark Time Sunshine were there because I think that we got close through all that stuff. With [DJ] Abilities, this was the first time I’ve seen him live, on this tour. It was definitely our first time seeing our own music. It was just within two weeks of meeting him that all of this has happened. So, my prayers and love go out to Max [Abilities] and the Rhymesayers clique.