Juan Huevos is a fascinating character. For starters, his name is Juan Huevos!
The indie rapper (real name: Jon Gregory) went through several rap handles before settling with Huevos. “When you’re coming up, and you’re trying to find your rap name, you kind of pull sort of random things out,” says the LA native, 36, from his Chapel Hill home. A rapper since his middle-school days, he used to be known as Jon G. As he began battle rapping in the late ’90s, people used to call him Gregs, which then morphed into Eggs. He almost started calling himself Johnny Eggs, but since “The Sopranos” was big at the time, he thought the name sounded too Mafioso. “I didn’t want anybody to think I was trying to rep, you know, some mafia vibe,” he says.
He decided to make Johnny Eggs Spanish and call himself Juan Huevos, which is just fun to say. (He’s still coming up with new handles – he also releases tunes under the name J Waves). Contrary to popular belief, Juan Huevos isn’t a sly nod to Gregory’s battle with testicular cancer. (After all, huevos is sometimes used as a euphemism for testicles.) “My name has nothing to do with (that),” he says. “I was Juan Huevos for years before I had cancer.”
In 2006, doctors found a malignant tumor on one of his testicles, which they eventually took out. “It was a wild time, man,” he remembers. “I did full chemo, you know, lost all my hair. I looked like Powder. You know the movie ‘Powder’?” Even though Gregory was only 26 when he got cancer, he didn’t let it get him down. “I actually was a pretty chipper cancer patient, you know,” he says. “I was actually, like, stoked to just have the time off, and I just worked on music. I probably got better at making music in the four or five months I was dealing with that.”
A French connection
Gregory traveled to France in 2008, spending several weeks in Saint-Etienne, taking up an invitation a France-based rapper sent him (on MySpace!) about collaborating on some tunes. Needless to say, the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris last weekend had Gregory somberly reflecting on his experiences there. “It’s horrible,” he says. “I was listening to NPR and this woman was saying how a lot of young people, you know, were targeted in this, the same kind of people that I would have been spending time with out there.… All the people I know out there seemed to be OK, and I’m thankful for that.”
He continues to compose and perform rap music with the same creative je ne sais quoi he had when he was in France. Gregory is a man who refers to himself as “a CEO of the bedroom rap scene,” which both does and doesn’t mean what you think. “I’m at home – I’m not in a fancy recording studio,” he says, on how he’s been known to record where he sleeps. “But it’s also a bit of a double-entendre that, for lack of a better way to put it, I’m rapping about (expletive) a lot or rapping about girls, women.” Gregory presents Huevos as such a “playarific” alter ego that he would often end up in his drawers during live performances. “I walk the line between, like, machismo and self-deprecation, you know.”
Although he says he’s retired the whole stripping-to-his-skivvies thing, that doesn’t mean he still won’t get women hot-and-bothered at his live sets. They might get worked up when he opens up for the Turquoise Jeep collective Friday at Cat’s Cradle, especially if he performs such numbers like his Yuletide-themed jam “Mistletoe Belt Buckle,” which he recorded last Christmas and is planning to shoot a video for soon. “I’m proud of that one,” he says. “I felt like I wanted some attention. It was the holidays!”
Told you this dude is a character!
Who: Turquoise Jeep, with Juan Huevos and Kosha Dillz
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com