Breeding Ground Spotlight: Hip-Hop From the “Ground Up”


Fresh out of Philadelphia’s thriving music scene comes the group Ground Up. The trio consisting of two MCs – Malakai and Azar – with producer Bij Lincs has released 11 mixtapes since 2008. Their latest project, Supernatural, features Action Bronson, as well as fellow Illadelph rappers Chill Moody and Reef the Lost Cauze.

Ground Up is currently embarking on their Happy Hour Tour, which spans the East and Northeast Coasts. They were recently booked for SXSW, which goes down in March 2013. There’s no question that this Hip-Hop group’s buzz, which started locally and on the Internet, is growing as they introduce themselves to audiences while touring the world. It was Method Man that said Wu-Tang formed like Voltron and the GZA was the head. Can you guys comment on how Ground Up formed?

Azar: Malakai and myself, we met at Temple’s orientation in 2008. I had known Bij Lincs, our producer, since grade school. So, after I met Malakai, we decided to start making this music sh*t like a full-time job.
Bij was actually going to school out in Santa Monica. He would send us beats from California, and we would just write our *sses off trying to make something special. The second we all got in the same room together, it was like the sh*t was meant to be. With the do-it-yourself approach that you guys take to music, you have a lot of friends playing important roles in different areas of the business. I’m curious to know what some of the benefits have been to working with your friends.

Azar: We take a lot of pride in being independent and self-sustaining. We have this great relationship where, I think, a lot of our friends believe in our dreams more than we do sometimes. We couldn’t do it without them, they drive us.

Bij Lincs: I feel like we opened a lot of opportunity for our friends – letting them do what they want to do to make us happy, but to make themselves happy also. We opened that door to the life that they’re very happy to have. It keeps us together for the rest of our lives I feel. If we can stick together the whole way through, I think we’ll have a very happy and successful life. You guys toured Europe with another Philly MC, Reef the Lost Cauze. Help to visualize what that journey was like.

Malakai: We did a couple shows out in Amsterdam. When we began rapping, we used to play a lot of basement parties, where it’s nasty and muggy, everybody’s sweating cause it’s hot as f*ck. And actually, when we went out to Amsterdam, the first show we did was in the basement of a clothing store. It was an awesome spot, and it reminded me how we are a long way from Philadelphia right now, and that the world is a lot bigger than I even imagined. And even though we’ve had a lot of success, we have a long way to go.

Bij Lincs: I guess what I take out of it the most is that the fact when I started listening to Hip-Hop in ninth grade, and I wasn’t even making beats, one of the first Hip-Hop shows I went to was a Reef the Lost Cauze show with Outerspace and Jedi Mind Tricks. It was kinda crazy ’cause I was out in the crowd and little did I know that six years later, I was gonna be making songs with this guy. I kinda take that for granted sometimes. Even sharing the stage with him at the TLA (Theatre of Living Arts) was kind of a big thing to me. What’s the long-term goal for Ground Up?

Malakai: Well, we recently began a label of our own, Ground Up Sounds LLC. We got our business licenses and everything we need to work out that end. Our goal is to eventually be a complete functional label for our own sake and for other people. You don’t necessarily have to be independent forever. We’ve always been open to ideas of signing to a major label or whatever, but we recognized how much of this job we can do on our own or with our friends as we talked about. But really, the goal is to continue on the path that we’ve been on and to learn as we go along.

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