Hip-hop star Pigeon John at Whiskey Dick’s on Friday
Ryan Summerlin February 21, 2008
There’s not too many birds of Pigeon John’s feather: Even though the underground rapper’s goal is creating underground hip-hop everybody can enjoy, that creates some contradictions.
There are even two different stories about Pigeon John’s nickname.
Did the MC born John Kenneth Dunkin embrace the nickname a friend’s mom gave him, or do you buy the more colorful story from Wikipedia, which reported that Jesus rechristened him while driving around Inglewood one day:
“He hopped out and handed me a dead pigeon. He whispered ‘Please have a good time, you’re really bumming me out.’ I watched him sink back into the cushioned seats and drive, quickly, away. And that’s when it happened ” the pigeon started shaking violently and became awake, picked up and flew away. I don’t think I had a choice … (It) was ‘Pigeon’ or die.”
Not only is he a prolific underground MC ” a contradiction in itself ” but Pigeon John is also a guy his friends can call and ask to play a show.
“PJ is like a personal friend … and I called him up,” said promoter “LateNite” Billy Drewitz, who booked Pigeon John’s return to Whiskey Dick’s Saloon on Friday, Feb. 22. “He’s the type of person I could call up at home and just ask a favor.”
The last time Pigeon John played here was July 26 ” a few days after Drewitz’s girlfriend celebrated a birthday ” but the Southern California-based rapper is converting a few friends up north as well. Pigeon John opened for Mixmaster Mike at the MontBleu last year, played in front of a sold-out audience at NV50 in Carson City, and performed in Reno a few times, with the likes of Quannum labelmate Lyrics Born, Zion I, Acrobatic and Bus Driver.
“I’d say it’s definitely still building,” Drewitz said. “Every time he performs, the crowd gets thicker and thicker.”
Drewitz has booked the rapper for about 12 shows in the years since he first worked with him at a private function in the Bay Area. Pigeon John started out at the Good Life Cafe in Los Angeles, where the likes of the Freestyle Fellowship, the Pharcyde and the Black Eyed Peas had their beginnings. He was one of eight MCs in the L.A. Symphony hip-hop collective, becoming a featured artist on the Yahoo.com/NBA summer tour.
“He kind of rose to the front of that crew and went solo,” Drewitz said.
These days, Pigeon John plays his solo shows with a live band, and he isn’t afraid to dance.
“I can tell you that he brought one of the coolest and most energetic shows I’ve seen in hip-hop,” Drewitz said. “He’s real free-spirited and wacky, and I use the word ‘zany.”
“He just doesn’t give a s*** ” which is not to say he can’t dance; he’s just so wacky in the way he goes about it.”
The zany, self-effacing rapper is also spiritual, with a positive bent in his lyrics.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but a lot of his message is based in religious tones: He’s real Christian,” Drewitz said. “He performs at churches a lot.
“There’s a lot of improv in his shows where he’s speaking to Jesus, and Jesus is teaching him this lesson.”
Pigeon John’s most recent CD was last year’s “Pigeon John Featuring Pigeon John 2” on the Telephone Co. label, but his most recent original material was Quannum’s “Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party.” With a new release due soon, Pigeon John’s show probably will highlight some new material.
“It’s just a different kind of free-spirited hip-hip,” Drewitz said. “So much of hip-hop today is trying to be like someone else or trying to follow in the footsteps of a mentor. He’s juts a real cool, down-to-earth, realistic mellow guy, and that’s hard to come by in hip-hop.”
The Instant Messengers, from Truckee, return to Whiskey Dick’s after opening up for the Grouch in December, along with Counter Productive from San Jose, which recently opened for the Pharcyde.
“Both artists and both shows were very well-received ” a lot of people were asking them when they were going to be back,” Drewitz said. “These guys really stuck out, and they work hard, and I like their vibe.”