Gangstagrass Goes Back to the Future With Rappalachia An Innovative Blend of Rap and Bluegrass The Band’s Jay-Z Meets Ralph Stanley Sound Breaks Barriers and Destroys Genres With Its Eclectic Mix of Low Down and Down Home Beats
The Gangstagrass Song “Long Hard Times To Come” Is The Theme of the FX Series Justified and Received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.
Blending bluegrass and hip-hop seems like an unlikely recipe for success, but don’t tell that to Rench, the mastermind behind the highly successful rap’n’grass project Gangstagrass. When he was going to grade school, recess was a time of breakdancing on cardboard to RUN-DMC. But at home, the records on the stereo were Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
That musical mash up made a lasting impression and sent Rench on a cross-country journey to play country-flavored hip-hop in dive bars. Along the way, he experienced a car crash, a campfire sing-along with a Sasquatch family and an encounter with a UFO crewmember that had the entire works of Funkadelic on his iPod. After settling in Brooklyn, he put together Rench Audio Studios and started recording MCs. Late at night, he’d combine their tracks with samples of bluegrass, blues, and electronic beats. The result was a genre-demolishing blitz called Rench Presents: Gangstagrass. It appeared on the Internet as a free download and people took notice. When the album garnered a positive mention on the influential blog BoingBoing.net, hundreds of thousands of downloads followed creating an intense underground buzz.FX licensed a Gangstagrass track to use on a commercial for their new western crime series, Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant. When FX asked Rench to write a theme song forJustified, 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 result was “Long Hard Times To Come,” the song that opens every episode of the series. He used the musicians from “Long Hard Times” on the first Gangstagrass album, “Lightning On The Strings, Thunder On The Mic”.
FX licensed “Give It Up,” another Gangstagrass track with T.O.N.E-z, to promote the second season of Justified. That exposure boosted album sales, created tens of thousands of Gangstagrass facebook fans, and set the stage for Rappalachia. “This record is a shout out to Appalachia, the cradle of bluegrass culture,” Rench explains. “It’s rooted in the sounds of traditional mountain music and presents Gangstagrass as a band with independent existence, not just one sound tied to a TV show.
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