Bluegrass and hip-hop may sound like an odd combination, but don’t tell that to Producer Rench, who birthed the fusion in 2006, with Gangstagrass.
“There are a lot more people out there with Jay-Z and Johnny Cash on their iPod playlists than you think,” said Rench, who had previously made a name for himself as an in-demand Brooklyn country and hip-hop producer and singer/songwriter. He should know — he’s toured the country with a band of bluegrass pickers and hip-hop emcees to the delight of standing room crowds everywhere.
In 2007, Rench had a musical itch that needed to be scratched — he was listening to the 1970s recordings of Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and couldn’t help imagining what classic bluegrass would sound like with rap vocals and beats. The result was a genre-demolishing blitz called Rench Presents: Gangstagrass.
When FX Network came to Rench looking for the Gangstagrass sound for the theme song to their new series Justified, he had bluegrass players lay down an original track with rapper T.O.N.E-z, the younger brother of early hip-hop legends Special K and T-LaRoc. The resulting track, “Long Hard Times To Come” blew FX away and when the show Justified became a hit with viewers, Rench and T.O.N.E-z received an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.”
Gangstagrass has since become a commercial and critical success. It’s music has been celebrated by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, TV Guide, NPR and more than 50,000 fans who have frolicked to the band’s hundreds of shows and bought the band’s official LPs. Their new single, “Nowhere to Run,” was featured in RollingStone as a peek into their Spring 2018 tour. Gangstagrass has toured internationally, blowing minds on main stages from SXSW to Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, with a live stage act taking full advantage of the improvisational aspects of both hip-hop and bluegrass.
With two emcees R-Son and Dolio The Sleuth trading verses, Dan Whitener on Banjo, Landry McMeans on dobro, and Rench on guitar, and frequent three-part-harmonies, the Gangstagrass live show has garnered a reputation among fans for its dynamism and spontaneity. Touring across the US, Gangstagrass is using live performances to organically develop new material for an album that will further explode the boundaries between genres generally thought to be incompatible.
This boundary-pushing, backwoods, banjo-heavy bounce performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on March 24 at the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center. Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased online, over the phone, or in person. For more information about tickets, contact the box office at 336-679-2941 or email@example.com; visit the Yadkin Arts Council at 226 E. Main St. in Yadkinville; or online at www.yadkinarts.org.