Artist: Pigeon JohnTitle: Pigeon John is Dating Your SisterRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jason Newman
Judging by the album title and cover photo-former L.A. Symphony member Pigeon John opening a white picket fence with flowers in his hand-one would expect to hear a rapper spit lighthearted, goofy rhymes over fun, circus-esque beats. Deep thought and seriousness are better left to other rappers, right?
On Pigeon John is Dating Your Sister, his second solo album, the West coast underground MC skillfully balances the lighthearted part of his personality with his desire to talk about real issues affecting him and his peers. What sets PJ apart from other deep rappers is his ability to sound profound without coming off as preachy or whiny, as on Identity Crisis when he rhymes, Dancing and acting a fool and stuff/But in the back of their mind, is it all a bluff?/Am I doin all of this just to cover it up?/All of my insecurities is hovering up. Somewhat paradoxically, his confidence in his lack of confidence is displayed without sounding cocky, a rare feat in the current hip-hop world.
Most of the beats were produced by PJ himself (with the notable exception of the DJ Rhettmatic-produced Originalz), who relies heavily on dark synth melodies that owe more to 80s British gloom-rockers Joy Division than any modern beatmaker. PJ the producer is not afraid to showcase his non-rap influences and those songs are the standouts on the album. Songs like the wistful, laid-back Emily, which samples Scottish underground rockers Mogwai and the psychedelic epic What is Love? are proof that you dont need expensive equipment to be creative. The latter, with its multi-part, anthemic quality, is what the experimental side of Lennon/McCartney might write if they were hip-hop heads.
What is Love? is also the best example of an oft-overlooked part of rap: the sung chorus. Of course, no one can take away what Premier did for the genre with his heavily-imitated style of scratching up vocal samples, but PJ focuses on the more musical side of the chorus and his genuinely mellifluous voice is one of the reasons the hip-hop community should take note.
Some may criticize, justifiably, PJs basic AABB flow on most songs. But what he may lose in a lack of complex rhyme scheme, he makes up for on lyrics, original beats and an understanding that hip-hop can encompass many different genres.
Pigeon John will be performing as part of the Cali Comm 2003 with Grouch & Eligh, Lyrics Born, Ugly Duckling and Abstract Rude kicking off Oct. 17th at the Colonial Theatre in Sacramento, CA.