MANHATTAN, NY—John Dunkin, better known by his stage name Pigeon John, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and at age five moved with his family to Inglewood, California. Being a mixed-race child (half black and half white), Dunkin felt out of place in predominantly white Omaha and predominantly black Inglewood.
Dunkin found his solace listening to the radio while skateboarding. He wrote his first rap, “Inglewood Skater’s Dream,” when he was 12. Dunkin’s mother eventually moved her family to nearby city of Hawthorne, but for John, home was the open mic nights at the Good Life Café, a health food restaurant in South Central Los Angeles where striving hip-hop artists displayed their talent. Pigeon John and other like-minded young rappers formed the hip-hop musical collective known as L.A. Symphony. Pigeon John left L.A. Symphony in 1997 to pursue a solo career, and this year released his sixth album, Encino Man.
At the Highline Ballroom tonight, Pigeon John performed to a small audience, but provided a unique vision of hip-hop. Performing to pre-recorded tracks for a mere 30-minute opening set, John was backed by strong rock and pop beats, and his singing voice was better than that of most rappers. Flowing easily back and forth from song to rap, John kept the show feather-light. It was a far cry from a typical New York rap concert, in that John’s persona was more California sunshine than mean street. He showed none of the boasting bravado that is almost signature in hip-hop; on the contrary, some of his raps were mockingly self-deprecating. Other rhymes saw him sorting through the challenges of life.
Like riding a skateboard, John’s performance rolled along gently from couplet to couplet and his toothy grin communicated that his source of integrity came with a mature sense of moderation, not with 911 drama or adult-themed provocation. Hip-hop does not come cleaner or more wholesome than this.
For more information on Pigeon John, go to pigeonjohn.com.