When hip-hop and ban­jos col­lide

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - MUSIC - STAFF RE­PORT

If you were a fan of the FX se­ries “Jus­ti­fied,” you know that “Long Hard Times to Come” was the drama’s theme song. It’s sure to be on the set list when Gangstagrass, the band that wrote and recorded the song, per­forms at River­front Nights on Satur­day, July 29.

Gangstagrass is a group of New York mu­si­cians who were among the first — if not the first — to com­bine blue­grass sounds with hip- hop beats. And it works.

“There are a lot more peo­ple out there with Jay-Z and Johnny Cash on their iPod playlists than you think,” says Rench, who cre­ated the sound and Gangstagrass and wrote “Long Hard Times to Come.”

When he shared his first blue­grass/ hip- hop ex­per­i­ment, Rench Pres- ents: Gangstagrass, for f ree on t he i nter­net, re­ac­tion was im­me­di­ate. Gangstagrass re­ceived hun­dreds of thou­sands of down­loads and blog fea­tures, in­clud­ing Bo­ingBo­ing. net. His vi­sion to mesh hip- hop MCs and rhythms in sync with ban­jos, fid­dles and do­bros, made the com­bi­na­tion feel nat­u­ral and au­then­tic.

But the phone call con­vinc­ing the mu­si­cian he was onto some­thing came from FX net­work which, upon lis­ten­ing to Gangstagrass, com­mis­sioned “Jus­ti­fied’s” theme song. It re­ceived an Emmy nom­i­na­tion for “Out­stand­ing Orig­i­nal Main Ti­tle Theme Mu­sic.”

To sat­isfy the de­mand for more ma­te­rial like the “Jus­ti­fied” track, Rench pro­duced the band’s first of­fi­cial re­lease, “Light­ning On the Strings, Thun­der On The Mic.” Its se­cond track, “I’m Gonna Put You Down,” was broad­cast by the His­tory Chan­nel to pro­mote “Ap­palachian Out­laws.”

Since then, Gangstagrass has re­leased “Rap­palachia” in 2012, “Bro­ken Hearts and Stolen Money” in 2014 and “Amer­i­can Mu­sic” in 2015.

“Them’s the Breaks” came out in April of this year. How­ever, it is con­sid­ered to be Rench’s project, not a Gangstagrass al­bum.



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