Gangstagrass Release Anthemic Single 'Up High Do or Die'

Their new 10-track album, The Blackest Thing on the Menu, will be released on Friday, June 14.

By: Apr. 12, 2024
Gangstagrass Release Anthemic Single 'Up High Do or Die'
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Gangstagrass — trailblazers in a distinct musical genre of their own design — unveil “Up High Do or Die,” the third single off their forthcoming album, The Blackest Thing on the Menu. 

Scheduled for release on June 14, The Blackest Thing on the Menu released marks the band’s seventh full-length album. It embodies the dynamic fusion of bluegrass and hip-hop that Gangstagrass is known to inject into their music, exploring the foundational elements of both genres with zest and flavor. 

Accompanied by a music video, the track encapsulates the band’s signature blend of genres with precision and flair. Showcasing melodies infused with groove, crisp MC flow, and captivating bluegrass instrumentals, the anthemic “Up High Do or Die” cleverly interpolates elements from “Jerusalem Ridge,” labeling it as a co-write with Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass.”

Rench, the band’s founder and producer, describes it as an “uprising jam that gets your blood pumping, barreling at you like a comet.” This infectious energy permeates the entire song, making it impossible not to move along with Gangstagrass. Rench continues, “Lowdown Brass Band met up with us in Chicago to lay down horn parts and the sound is just huge. I feel like this will be a great song for psyching yourself up to kick ass at whatever you are about to do… Bill Monroe may be rolling in his grave but we are dancing in the street.”

The conception of the album’s title came about last year while the band was eating dinner at a “blues-themed restaurant in my hometown,” MC and vocalist Dolio the Sleuth explains. “There was a Juneteenth-themed menu that had a bunch of ‘blackened’ spicy items. One of us asked the server for ‘the blackest thing on the menu,’ and it turned out to be blackened shrimp and cheese grits… which, of course, we all ordered.”

Brought up again while on the road a few months later, “That ‘eureka’ look struck over all of our faces, the rain stopped, and I kid you not, TWO rainbows appeared in the sky,” Dolio continues. “We then had no choice but to acknowledge that the heavens were blessing the moment that the title appeared.”

As time passed, the title acquired an entirely new significance, “especially at this moment of conversation about race and country music, after we have played so many bluegrass and folk festivals where the Black influence on country music was not represented except by us,” Rench details. “We were trying to find an album title for a while, to the point where we were really throwing in all kinds of funny ideas, and this one seemed funny for being so brash at first, we were in the tour van laughing. But then we stopped laughing and it sunk in how appropriate it is.” 

Dolio concludes, “We recognized that when we’re at festivals we are indeed the spiciest thing on the menu, the one with the most intense flavor. This album is bringing the heat, the spice, the flavor and the down-home cookin’ all in one.”


“The Only Way Out Is Through”

“Good at Being Bad”

“Up High Do or Die”

“Gone Gone”


“Obligatory Braggadocio”

“Avenue Boy”


“It’s Alive”


Gangstagrass is set to hit the road this May with shows on May 16 in Roanoke, VA at The Grandin Theatre, May 19 in Bloomington, IL at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, and May 20 in Lexington, KY at Manchester Music Hall. For a complete list of upcoming Gangstagrass shows, visit their website HERE.

Furthermore, as part of a busy festival season, Gangstagrass will take center stage as the Friday headliners for three major international festivals: the Montelago Celtic Festival in Italy on August 2, returning to the USA for the Philadelphia Folk Festival on August 16, where they will be leading a workshop spotlighting the Jim Crow-era origins of American music genres, then back across the pond for UK’s Shrewsbury Folk Festival on August 23.


Conceived as a studio endeavor 15 years ago by Rench, a Brooklyn-based producer handling vocals, guitar, and beats, Gangstagrass has evolved into a vibrant and improvisational band, forging camaraderie from the most unexpected of origins. The group harmonizes the unwavering array of skills from Rench, R-SON the Voice of Reason (MC), and Dolio the Sleuth (MC, Vocals), in addition to featuring Dan “Danjo” Whitener (Banjo, Vocals), and B.E. Farrow (Fiddle, Vocals), among other brilliant instrumentalists. With roots across the country, the ensemble has skillfully blended the traditional sounds of fiddles and banjos with contemporary hip-hop beats. This unique synergy and creative innovation have propelled the band to worldwide success. As the pioneers who made history as the first-ever band to bring real hip-hop MCs to the #1 spot on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart, Gangstagrass is well-acquainted with challenging norms. Their groundbreaking work led to them receiving UNESCO’s “International Innovator” award. Particularly noteworthy is their creation of the iconic “Long Hard Times to Come” — which served as the opening theme song for every episode of the hit FX show Justified — earning Gangstagrass a 2010 Primetime Emmy nomination in the “Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music” category. The group also saw recognition on America’s Got Talent in 2021, as judge Howie Mandel praised Gangstagrass as “the recipe that America has been looking for until now,” ultimately reaching the quarter-finals. Their educational outreach and the vast diversity of people in their live audiences all dancing together garnered Gangstagrass The New York Times headline “This Is the Music America Needs.” 

Photo Credit: Melodie Yvonne


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