Don’t Pigeonhole John

Photo by Piper Ferguson
Photo by Piper Ferguson

When hard-pressed to describe Pigeon John’s sound, I choose “soul-rap” — living somewhere between early Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder (hard to listen to and not smile) and uplifting indie West Coast hip hop. When I say uplifting, I don’t mean that John Dunkin (his given name) is an average “conscious” rapper spewing bumper-sticker aphorisms; Pigeon John is far from milquetoast. Following the long tradition of blues, soul and R&B singers before him, Dunkin’s gritty rhymes help you dance your troubles away.

“Hip hop is still beautiful and young and sharp and funny and disrespectful — you know, everything that rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be,” Dunkin says via press release.

For example, on “Boomerang” from Pigeon John’s 2014 release Encino Man, he raps like a bluesman over a rolling electro-backbeat: “I got a girl in Portland/I got her singing songs/ She says she loves me and she’ll kill me if I’m doing wrong.” Elsewhere, “All The Roads” is a sweet, almost synth-pop love song in which John sings as well as he raps. “Champagne on My Shoes” is straight-up hip hop featuring this clubby couplet: “She raised her butt in the air/Shouted that she don’t care.” And John’s fondness for vintage soul and rock ‘n’ roll shines through in the boogie-woogie of “What Are We Gonna Do.”

Pigeon John plays with Grayskul and Rafael Vigilante 8 pm Sunday, June 1, at Cozmic; $10 adv., $12 door.