Pigeon John is the quintessential backpack rapper for me. With album titles like Pigeon John Is Clueless, Pigeon John Is Dating Your Sister, and Pigeon John and the Summertime Pool Party, Pigeon John does not ape being gangster; he admits to skateboarding and even listening to Phil Collins. Needless to say, he does not have much street cred but he does not need to because his music is poppy and has a mass appeal. He continues his path of esoterically influenced hip hop on his latest album, Dragon Slayer.
I have to admit I was disappointed with the album’s title and the album’s seemingly serious cover image. Looking at the album I had to wonder whether or not Pigeon John was trying to change his image. Luckily, he makes it apparent from the get-go that this is the same old Pigeon John.
The album’s opening track “The Bomb” is a gospel-clapping jam filled with Saul Williams‘ “List of Demands”-type energy. Unlike “List of Demands”, Pigeon John firmly places his tongue in his cheek for his feigned braggadocio. What makes the track such a success is it is barely hip hop. The track is equally close to hip hop as it is to being a tamborine-filled electropop sing-a-long. Towards the end of the track John sings/raps “c’mon everybody won’t you clap your hands/white folks, do it on time if you can/sounds good, now here’s the plan/let’s all sing together like we in the same band” and then he goes into the song’s sing-a-long chorus.
The same fun energy is distributed throughout the album. “So Gangster” is a song dripping in sarcasm. The track has the type of r&b-esque chorus that one would expect from a radio hit hip hop track but John makes it apparent that his definition of gangster differs from that of Bun B. During the track Pigeon John describes his “gangster” activities like drinking coffee, listening to Depeche Mode, and playing Super Mario.
But not every song on Dragon Slayer is a joke or slyly sarcastic. John actually gives us a fairly earnest biography on “Davey Rockit”. For the track, John goes completely away from hip hop and picks up an acoustic guitar a la K-Os. Considering it sticks out on the album like a sore thumb it actually works fairly well.
In the end, all the chances Pigeon John takes on Dragon Slayer seems to work out. The album is probably the strongest of Pigeon John’s career but because it is not a “serious” or “gangsta” hip hop effort it will probably never get the credit it deserves. For my buck, Dragon Slayer may prove to be one of the best hip hop albums of the year.