Gangstagrass Release 'Mother' Feat. Reef The Lost Cauze

Their 10-track album, The Blackest Thing on the Menu, is due out Friday, June 14.

By: Jun. 10, 2024
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Gangstagrass, trailblazers in a genre of their own design, have delivered “Mother” (featuring Reef the Lost Cauze) — the impactful fifth single — along with its official music video from their 10-track album, The Blackest Thing on the Menu, due out Friday, June 14. Released via Rench Audio, their seventh full-length album embodies the dynamic fusion of bluegrass and hip-hop that defines Gangstagrass, exploring the foundational elements of both genres with zest and flavor.

Royalties from “Mother” will benefit Friends of the Congo (FOTC), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. The FOTC was established in 2004 to work in partnership with Congolese to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire. The Congolese people are facing human rights abuses, humanitarian crises, forced labor, and ecological devastation in the largest rainforest in Africa – Friends of the Congo works to address all of these enormous challenges. Fans are encouraged to stream the track, and to use the song in their videos on Tik Tok and Instagram to contribute to the relief efforts.

Highlighted in The Bluegrass Situation, “Mother” features a smooth beat paired with poetic lyrics that ponder some of the most serious issues facing humanity today. Speaking on the inspiration for the track, MC and vocalist Dolio the Sleuth explains, “It started as a poem I wrote one day on tour. We were in the north of France, and just as described, I was sitting under a tree looking around me thinking about the world, our place in it, and what major changes we’d have to make in order to ensure the survival of humanity. My younger brother was actively deployed at the time, and since my family has generations of men who’ve served, including my father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and numerous uncles and aunts and cousins, there is always real concern about why the country is involved in active aggression, especially when that same country is obsessed with committing violence against its own citizens, my community in particular. I shared it with the crew, and Rench cooked up a haunting oeuvre.”

“It was a great stretch of our musical muscles to dissect banjo notes and fiddles into something with such a spacious sound,” producer, founder, and vocalist Rench admits. “Then unexpectedly we got fast rolls in a whirlwind jam. Influences of hip-hop and bluegrass can be fused in a million ways, and we certainly came at this one from a different direction.”

Gangstagrass has been praised in a wide variety of leading publications including The New York TimesForbesRolling StoneNPRViceHipHopDX, and The Wall Street Journal. With more than a decade of shattering barriers and global touring, this rebellious collective has achieved unparalleled success in crafting an innovative sound rooted in historically significant heritage.

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,” 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."

Glide Magazine exclusively revealed the album’s fourth single, “Obligatory Braggadocio,” praising, “Gangstagrass have solidified their status… through sharp musical chops and even more impressive hip-hop flows… their skills are strong enough to appeal to fans of all the genres they cover, making them a true melting pot of a group.” Accompanied by a music video filmed in rural Virginia, the track is a “country-bro banger” that showcases the band's genre-blending style with powerful guitar rhythms, intense beats, and assertive lyrics about flexing their swagger, featuring imagery of big wheels on oversized trucks.

The third single off the album — “Up High Do or Die” — cleverly interpolates elements from “Jerusalem Ridge,” carrying a co-write with Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass.” Rench describes it as an “uprising jam that gets your blood pumping, barreling at you like a comet.” The album’s sophomore single, “Good at Being Bad” was co-produced by the GRAMMY-Award winning Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, TN. The lead single from the album, titled “The Only Way Out Is Through,”  made its debut on Bluegrass Today and features Jerry Douglas, a 15-time GRAMMY winner and three-time CMA “Musician of the Year” recipient. The accompanying music video had its exclusive premiere via The Bluegrass Situation

THE BLACKEST THING ON THE MENU TRACK LISTING:

“The Only Way Out Is Through”

“Good at Being Bad”

“Up High Do or Die”

“Gone Gone”

“Mother”

“Obligatory Braggadocio”

“Avenue Boy”

“Palette”

“It’s Alive”

“Sankofa”

Their album release party will be at Pearl Street Warehouse in Washington DC on Tuesday, June 11. 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.

For a complete list of upcoming Gangstagrass shows, visit their website HERE.

Above all, Gangstagrass emphasizes the value of education, conducting workshops for K-12, college students, and adults of diverse backgrounds. Whether through engaging Q&A sessions, historical lessons, or spontaneous music tutorials, the group staunchly advocates for imparting well-rounded knowledge to everyone. 

Fans can now text the band at (+1) 504-224-7700 – send them your weirdest text message or a fun fact or just say hi, and they’ll read it!

ABOUT GANGSTAGRASS: 

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 other brilliant instrumentalists, most recently  Ricky “Banjo Daddy” Mier (Banjo, Vocals), Dan Whitener (Banjo, Dobro, Mandolin, Harmonica, Vocals), and B.E. Farrow (Fiddle, Vocals). 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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