PIGEON JOHN with BLACKALICIOUS , LIFESAVAS and FAT LIP at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Tuesday (March 28). $29.50. 416-203-3509, www.ramosent.com. Rating: NNNNN
I didn't need to hear Pigeon John saying, "I like the feel of your lips on my ass" on his creepy voice-mail message to know the Hawthorn, California-raised rapper's a weirdo. I mean, wasn't that him transforming a nursing-home bingo game into a disco inferno at the end of his Hello Everybody video?
If you don't know him, it's because he's spent the last decade-plus quietly honing his idiosyncratic brand of rap. His two albums, Pigeon John... Is Clueless and Pigeon John Is Dating Your Sister, cover a stylistic spectrum, but a couple of elements recur: John's rather emo self-deprecation, bizarre humour, a melodious flow, fearless honesty and beats owing as much to the Bay Area as the Beatles.
Many can't call it, describing it as "experimental." John, chatting from a tour stop in Tennessee, says that term's better suited to his pal Busdriver.
But he admits later that when he's in the lab "I do put it all down -- no edits, no rules. Music is the most fun when I'm not really thinking about what works. It's more about what feels good at the time."
Feeling good has finally paid off. After John's last tour, an impressed Lyrics Born signed him to Quannum, the label of Lateef, Blackalicious and DJ Shadow.
Even more shocking to John than getting signed was the amount of freedom Quannum afforded him in recording Pigeon John And The Summertime Pool Party, which drops in August.
"I thought signing with Quannum meant doing my style over their production, which I was totally ready for. I was like, yes, this is going to be freakin' easy cuz all I gotta do is freakin' dance all over their hard freakin' beats!"
Which he proved he can freakin' do very freakin' well on current tourmates Blackalicious's Side To Side, off their latest, The Craft.
"They just basically said, 'Okay, here's your money -- do your record.' I was like, 'Damn -- what do you want from me?' They never really answered. They kept it real vague. It was a little intimidating. I was like, 'Give me some freakin' direction here!'"
Getting none, he "went to town," blowing his whole budget on horn and string players and backup singers. He says the result is akin to "a shotgun of yogurt on your face." Mmm.
Perhaps John is on his way to hip-pop dominance, following in the footsteps of his old buddies Black Eyed Peas, with whom he used to rock the open-mic night at the Good Life health food store in L.A. in the early 90s.
Remembering their struggles, he's got nothing but love for BEP's current maddening pop drivel.
"There was a time when (main Pea) will.i.am told me the entire band was getting 100 bucks a show to open for Macy Gray. That was 2001.
"Now the music has obviously gotten more on the pop side, but I think in the long run it's going to be good for them and for artists like me trying to get into the game."