Gangstagrass, Justified, and Remapping My Musical Genome

Every now and then people do something so amazing, but so obvious in hindsight that you can’t believe you didn’t think of it first.  The excellent Post Secret and Will Ferrell’s hilarious takes on drunk history being two examples.

When I watched the first episode of Justified, probably the second-best show on television (behind only True Blood), I was blown away by Long Hard Times to Come, the bluegrass/hip-hop mashup of a theme song.  It was revolutionary, it was obvious, and it rocked.

image Yesterday, I got an email from Gangstagrass, the group that does the Justified song, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their record and/or adding some songs to our radio station playlists, and including a couple more awesome bluegrass/hip-hop songs.  The Justified song was not a fluke- these are mighty fine songs.  In fact, they are genre-creating songs, at least for me.

I’ve always loved bluegrass.  I thought my hip-hop era started with De La Soul and ended when Flavor Flav took to reality-TV, but maybe not.  Gangstagrass is a musical Reece’s Cup, that makes both elements sound better.

Here’s the bottom line.  I get a lot of requests to review records, but none of them so far have been as musically paradigm-shifting as Gangstagrass’s aptly titled debut, Lightning on the Stings, Thunder on the Mic (purchase @ Amazon).  This is some ear-bending, genre-changing goodness.

Gangstagrass is a collaboration between Rench, a singer, songwriter and producer who has previously combined elements of honky-tonk, hip-hop, and trip-hop music (I am going to explore his other stuff via Amazon), rapper T.O.N.E.-z, who is featured on the Justified song, and some smoking bluegrass players.

So sit back on this Sunday afternoon and dig this little bluegrass, hip-hop, gospel gem.

I’m completely serious when I say that this record has single-handedly changed my musical genome.  This is really good stuff.  As a matter of fact, I bought the entire record from Amazon, burned it to a CD and put in in my truck, where it will reign supreme for the foreseeable future.  Hell, it’s 98 degrees out there and I’m going to have to roll with the windows down, just so I can scare a few soccer moms.

Go buy this record.  Roll the window down.  Play it loud.

I am.

7 thoughts on “Gangstagrass, Justified, and Remapping My Musical Genome

  1. I don't share your love of country music, in fact it is my least favourite genre. However, I love it when new genres are created by blending unusual styles together. The sample track you gave sounds so 'normal' which is unusual for such a blend of drammatically different styles. The two go together so well it is surprising. These guys have hit it right on the head. This might even mark a turning point in my appreciation of Country/Bluegrass.

  2. My reaction exactly. Their first album (was available then, as a download) didn't leave my work computer for 6 months – played all day, every day for months – until I gave it to a vendor rep, who left it in his Car CD player for weeks after the 12 hour drive home. It's mind-blowingly sweet!

  3. I just discovered Gangstagrass on Web Radio as well and love your review. There's life for Hip-Hop after all.

  4. NOOOOOOO….this sort of eclecticism” is simply mashing together two styles that are, shall we say, culturally deprived. In other words, a combination of two “lowest common denominator” styles. Bluegrass is rigidly stuck in the banjo fingerpicking style that allows no original variations on the same pull-off and hammer-on licks that have dominated that genre for nearly a century. The only way that practitioners have of proving their competence is not by coming up with unique melodic and harmonic ideas, but simply playing the same old licks at ever increasing speeds. And hip hop is deliberately handicapped by refusal of any sort of consciousness of musical or literary form. Verse-chorus is not a heavily practiced form within it, and any sort of poetic structure seems to go by the wayside in favor of ever-decreasing literary subtlety. And original musical ideas? The prevalence of “beat-making” by stringing together pre-composed and already public fragments of rhythm should disabuse you of that. While I wouldn’t be such a cultural Philistine is to claim that this sort of thing is not music, I stand firm on my conception that the reason the two styles work together so well is that they are both formats made to appeal to the least sophisticated listeners out there.

  5. Thanks for the comment, however extreme. I started to write a long, detailed response, but at the end of the day what it boils down to is that I pretty much disagree with all of that.

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