When hip-hop and banjos collide
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.