Creating something new in music doesn’t happen that often – musicians tend to gravitate to a style or genre that feels familiar and a general musical heartbeat that resonates within them personally. Veering outside that comfort zone takes some innovation and above all, deep-seated creativity.
So to blend and meld sounds that seem at opposite ends of the spectrum could seem counterintuitive – unless the band is Gangstagrass. This band made a name for themselves by being free to deftly fuse two very embedded styles of American music culture – Hip Hop and Bluegrass. The result has been nothing short of mind-blowing. You just wouldn’t think that it works but it does and with an unexpected freshness that gives life to both styles in a modern way – leaving you wondering why it hadn’t been done before.
And their success is easy to see – creating the opening theme song, ‘Long Hard Times to Come’ for the acclaimed show, Justified, six studio albums that frequently were found in the top 10 of the Bluegrass charts, becoming quarter-finalists on America’s Got Talent – however, you only have watch the crowds at one of their performances – they have hit a sweet spot in music with fans and audiences across the globe.
When asked if there had been any resistance or push back from the traditionalists and purists in either the Bluegrass or Hip Hop camps, Dan Whitener, who’s on banjo and vocals jokingly replied, ‘Remember guys, there was that one guy, just that one guy in Knoxville, he wasn’t a fan.’ ‘Yeah, that one guy,’ R-Son, the Voice of Reason, MC in the band explained,’We did a show in Knoxville, at Rhythm and Blooms, and there was this one guy in the front and he just pointed at us and he said, “No!” and stormed off but besides him that’s been about it.’ The reception has continually been phenomenal and rightly so. Dan went on to say, ‘When we tour here and across Europe, audiences here aren’t prone to the kind of purism sensibility. We come over here and play and audiences are like, “Oh cool, Hip Hop and Bluegrass fusion! It’s just a bit of a different mindset’. R-Son elaborated, ‘These sounds we create, that come from the US, it’s only natural that they should come together, it makes sense.’
But have other artists tried to copy their new style we wondered? Now that they’ve identified a new gap in the music industry, it could be a real possibility. The band say no, R-Son offered, ‘It’s more like offshoots and different lanes with a similar path, but not necessarily the same thing. That’s good because what we need is diversity of thought,’ Dolio The Sleuth MC added, ‘Yeah, and they’re certainly not as dope as we are!’
So, what’s up next for the band then? ‘We have a new single that we released right now for the current tour that’s been made exclusively available to everyone here in the UK’ Brian Farrow who’s on fiddle and vocals said. ‘Yeah, it’s called Up High Do Or Die,’ shared band founder Rench. ‘After a few more dates on our European leg of the tour, we start touring the US when we get back,’ they explained.
Personally speaking, we can’t wait to see them back on this side of the pond again, mixing things up and making a little musical history every time they play!
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