Hip hop hootenany! Gangastrass bridges rap and roots music • Brooklyn Paper

Hip hop hootenany! Gangastrass bridges rap and roots music

Down-home homeboys: The Brooklyn band Gangstagrass, which combines hip-hop and bluegrass, will play under the Manhattan Bridge on Sept. 13.

They’re straight outta country!

A Brooklyn band that combines hip hop and bluegrass will drop some down-home beats at the penultimate Live at the Archway summer music session, under the Manhattan Bridge on Sept. 13. The two genres blend together as smooth as Kentucky bourbon, and have more similarities than you might think, said the self-proclaimed mastermind behind Gangstagrass.

“We’ve discovered that there is a lot of common ground on several levels that people don’t expect but are really there, in terms of having been developed originally in a community for people to jam together,” said Rench, who lives in Kensington.

Rench, a singer and guitar player, formed Gangstagrass about a decade ago, mixing together hip-hop — a genre native to the Bronx — and bluegrass — a genre native to the Appalachian mountains. But despite the hundreds of miles that separate their origins, both stem from the same kind of stories, he said.

“They share a lot of common narratives in terms of outlaws, being on the run, trouble with the law, poverty, hardship,” said Rench. “Both tap into these narratives that resonate with people.”

Hip-hop and bluegrass both emphasize the art of freestyle, although they call it by different words — in hip-hop, it is known as cypher, and in bluegrass, it is called a pick, and as long as each musician knows the names, they can work together, said Rench.

“One of the important similarities [is a] very strong improvisational element. Once you translate the vocabulary, it really clicks into place,” he said. “Those two things are really essentially the same thing.”

Gangstagrass has a core group of about five musicians, but Rench has recruited a few more to play the show under the Brooklyn to Manhattan span, after scouring both musical scenes for the best musicians for the part. Potential players must have a particular personality in order to bridge the two genres, said Rench.

“People that have openness to see the connection, be interested and be enthusiastic in playing in this kind of combination, and having the skills to pull it off,” he said.

Watching Gangstagrass jam live is very different from listening to an album, according to Rench, because the band members will put their whole heart and soul into playing for the crowd and creating something new.

“Expect a lot of energy and connection — we really make it a party, in terms of bringing interaction and spontaneity to feel things with the crowd and get things going,” said Rench. “It’s gonna be good. It’s gonna be fun.”

Gangstagrass at Live at the Archway (Water Street between Anchorage Place and Adams Street in Dumbo, www.dumbo.is). Sept. 13 at 6 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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