Ready for banjo-backed rap fusing the finest traditions of hip hop and bluegrass? Welcome to UK-bound crossover heroes Gangstagrass.

Born out of Brooklyn’s multi-cultural, genre-defying music scene, the unpredictable quartet release live album Pocket Full Of Fire on February 15.

And today sees the eclectic collective kick off their 10-date headline tour at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms. 

“The UK is a wonderful audience for us and we find that the country and hip-hop combination brings out an amazing crowd for a party with us,” said founder Rench.

“We love meeting people at the shows and interacting with them during our performances which are very spontaneous. 

“When they see a rapper and a banjo player getting down live on stage together the way we do it, the energy really goes through the roof – even people that are familiar with our music find their jaws dropping to see where we take it on stage.”

Rench, a Brooklyn-based independent singer, songwriter, and producer, whose roots lie in honky-tonk and hip-hop, is joined by emcees R-Son and Dolio the Sleuth with Dan Whitener on banjo.

And after Rolling Stone Magazine identified the band’s Keep Talking as one of the ‘10 Americana/Country Songs You Need To Hear Right Now’ there’s never been a better time to go Gangsta.

With five studio albums to their name the only thing missing from the band’s canon was a live record of their unique sound.

Rench agrees. “It is definitely time for a live album release,” he added. “Over the years we have really developed a dynamic approach to having rappers and bluegrass players on stage together. 

“We take full advantage of the fact that both genres have a strong improvisational element. Verses are sometimes freestyled and songs are sometimes restructured on the fly. 

“And the songs themselves have evolved into new animals that come to life on stage. We captured some great performances in the spring and it will be great to get to share the live sound with fans everywhere.”

Gangstagrass bagged a big break when the makers of FX show Justified picked up the band’s Long Hard Times To Come as the series’ theme tune.

The song earned an Emmy Award nomination for best main title theme music and propelled Rench and co. into the mainstream.

“There are a lot more people out there with Jay-Z and Johnny Cash on their iPod playlists than you think,” added the band’s groundbreaking frontman. “We’re here to meet that need for both.”

Gangstagrass UK Tour Dates

Jan 30: Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms

Jan 31: Exeter, Phoenix

Feb 01: Bristol, Thekla

Feb 02: Oxford, O2 Adademy 2

Feb 03: Manchester, Band on the Wall

Feb 05: Perth, The Inchyra Arts Club

Feb 06: Glasgow, Hug & Pint          

Feb 07: Newcastle, The Cluny

Feb 08: Birmingham, O2 Institute

Feb 09: London, The Garage