Bluegrass and rap fusion band Gangstagrass is making its way to the RiverPark Center on February 11. The five-member group seeks to unify people through classic bluegrass with rap vocals and beats, and is most known for making the theme song of FX’s Justified.
Lead guitarist Rench said that first and foremost they set out to make some good music. Raised on what he called honkytonk and hip-hop music, he saw a lot of similarities between the two genres.
“There was so much we discovered about this perception of how different [the two genres] are and how at odds they might be. We’ve learned history about it being something that was imposed upon the public because the music industry started during Jim Crow segregation and was marketed to separate audiences,” Rench said.
He said that coming to Kentucky is always a good time, typically because of the bluegrass ties within the state.
RPC Executive Director Rich Jorn said he has been eager to bring them to Owensboro since he learned of the concept.
“I’m a big fan of taking multiple genres and putting them together, making them work. There’s kind of a cooperation there when you take bluegrass at its best and you take rap and you put them together — you get this one thing that’s beautiful,” Jorn said.
Since they combine the two genres, Rench said they often get haters and critics about merging the two versus keeping bluegrass “pure,” as they put it.
That was evidenced local when the RiverPark Center promoted the show, as there were social media comments that the band called racist.
Rench said one common complaint they receive is people saying including rap music in bluegrass will taint the image of latter by making it more violent; however, he said those topics are already prevalent in bluegrass music.
“It’s like they’ve completely forgotten the whole sub-genre of murder ballads that American folk music incorporated that are incredibly violent,” Rench said.
Nonetheless, they continue to do shows to continue their platform of merging two very similar genres into something fun for all. Manager Sleevs Messner said that the band attracts a wide variety of people, in age and in background.
“Everybody gets down and it’s just it’s so fun when you look out at the audiences,” Messner said.
And oftentimes, they say the Bluegrass purists are the ones that enjoy the music the most.
In 2020, the band reached Billboard Bluegrass No. 1 with their album No Time For Enemies which they produced partially during the pandemic and in remote settings. Messner recommends everyone interested in seeing the show listen to that album.
To purchase tickets, head to the RiverPark Center’s website here.