Emmy Award nominated GANGSTAGRASS are sharing a new video this week [see below] — as they announce a new live album, to be released February 2019.
The New York City music group, founded in 2006 by billboard-charting musician and producer RENCH proposed, right from the beginning, to mash-up two distinctly different musical genres: bluegass and hip-hop — to create something entirely new.
Their first rip-roaring release “Long Hard Times to Come” [probably inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Things Goin’ On”] was selected for the opening theme song of the FX television show “Justified.”
The band, which includes Rench (vocals, guitar) Dan Whitener (banjo, vocals) Brian Farrow (fiddle) R-SON (vocals) and Dolio The Sleuth (vocals) has the distinctive characteristics of bluegrass; the high & solitary harmonies and the resonant guitars, the violin and the banjo, but… and this is where the magic happens… they also incorporate the sounds of lightning-fast and authentically predatory hip-hop. For example, Bronx-based rapper T.O.N.E.z was featured on “Long Hard Times to Come”.
Others who have contributed to the soundscape of Gangstagrass have included: PREPMODE (DJ Simple Simon) Dolio the Sleuth [turntablism], “Flower Child” Nitty Scott, the hip-hop duo Dead Prez, the “Cocoa Brovaz” duo Smif-N-Wessun, and the West Hollywood rapper Soul Khan, among many others.
Currently, the Gangstagrass voices are: “Voice of Reason” aka R-SON and Florida’s L. Dolio Durant, aka Dolio the Sleuth.
It seems highly unlikely that two such different genres could be merged in an adaptive manner; But the sounds have a shared history: bluegrass is influenced by gospel and jazz, and the folk traditions of poor Irish, Scottish and English laborers… with jazz and blues elements coming-in from African-American forced workers.
Although more radical in nature, and urban in development, hip-hop is often described as “simultaneously new and old” just like bluegrass… and hip-hoppers sample blues, jazz, rag-time, funk, and disco. The crossing between the two genres is, of course, politically shared by the experience of marginalized poverty, and musically shared by the use of motifs, imagery and irony and the danceability of the product.
“It is definitely time for a live […] release,” says Rench “Over the years we have really developed a dynamic approach to having rappers and bluegrass players on stage together. We take full advantage of the fact that both genres have a strong improvisational element. Verses are sometimes freestyled, songs are sometimes restructured on the fly. And the songs themselves have evolved into new animals that come to life on stage.”
“We captured some great performances in the spring and it will be great to get to share the live sound with fans everywhere.”
Gangstagrass will arrive to the coasts of the United Kingdom next January and February [dates below video.] Rench and his crew are looking forward to seeing fans: “The UK is a wonderful audience for us, and we find that the country and hip-hop combination brings out an amazing crowd for a party with us. We love meeting people at the shows and interacting with them during our performances which are very spontaneous.”
“When they see a rapper and a banjo player getting down live on stage together the way we do it, the energy really goes through the roof – even people that are familiar with our album recording find their jaws dropping to see where we take it on stage.”
Their first live album ‘Pocket Full of Fire’ will be released 15th Feb worldwide
Words: @neilmach 2018 ©
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