Ever wonder what happens when a California-raised hip-hop producer meets his Oklahoma bluegrass roots? Gangstagrass happens.
Fronted by musician, producer and all-around “mastermind” Rench, Gangstagrass is a brainchild that blends the unique sounds of modern, lyrical hip-hop with some of the country’s oldest music: bluegrass. Though his father lived in Oklahoma, Rench grew up in California, where the rap and hip-hop scene reigns. He spent most of his time in this environment, but he also got a good dose of more country, Southern music when he visited his father. This interesting combination of exposure led to the organic birth of Gangstagrass.
As a hip-hop producer in New York, Rench says he was working on a project, couldn’t help himself and had to add a “little steel guitar” to the mix. That little steel guitar proved to be the catalyst for what may very well be a new direction of modern music. Rench began working with various emcees and musicians to create a collection of tracks that combined a traditional bluegrass sound with the throwback hip-hop style that each artist brought to the table. These collaborations have resulted in two albums by Rench’s group of various and often visiting musicians. In addition, Gangstagrass created the theme song for FX’s Justified, resulting in an Emmy nomination , and as of recently the band has added a new music video to their portfolio.
Gangstagrass is no stranger to the merging of music and visual media, but their newest video, released at Brooklyn’s Genuine Motorworks, is their first venture outside of live footage. Well-executed in black and white, the video’s old-western theme drives home the novelty of the musical sound behind Gangstagrass. Outdated wardrobe and multi-cultural facet pinpoint the marriage of two near-opposite musical genres and progression of society over the past century.
Despite its unexpected partnership, the fusion of bluegrass and hip-hop creates a powerful social message on many levels and should not be entirely surprising given the fact that much of America’s current music is derived from bluegrass roots. Rench and his fellow musicians meld together guitar, fiddle, banjo, dobro and a multitude of male and female emcees, sometimes as many as five at a time, to create a simultaneous representation of the country’s musical evolution and its simple beginnings.
While it may be some time before the rest of the world catches up with this retro-visionary style, Gangstagrass is mastering cross-genre experimentation and providing an excellent example for future artists. Not to mention, the music is pretty damn good.