GROUND UP first started taking shape in the summer of 2008 at Temple University’s Freshmen Orientation in North Philadelphia. It was here that Ground Up’s two MCs Azar (Alexander Azar) and Malakai (Malcolm McDowell) met. It wasn’t long before realizing they shared an affinity for expressing themselves via spoken and written word.
As the Fall semester arrived, the two wordsmiths found themselves creating tracks on campus. They soon called on Ground Up’s exclusive producer (and Azar’s longtime friend) Bij Lincs (Bijan Houshiarnejad) who completed the head-nodding trifecta.
In under three years Ground Up has released 9 mixtapes (each met with increasing popularity and buzz), continue gaining legions of loyal fans, have self-booked multi-state tours opening for artists including Chiddy Bang, Meek Mill, Mac Miller, Rick Ross, Black Star and Freeway. Peedi Crakk, Chad Ginsburg, Freeway, Jaguar Wright have all collaborated on various Ground Up mixtape tracks. Established producers have also gravitated toward them. Those who’ve guest-produced on tracks for Ground Up include Mike Jerz, Dirty Harry and Ritz Reynolds.
When afforded the time to pause and reflect on their past achievements it’s easy for Ground Up to become humbled. But however humbled in reflection, their success doesn’t come as a surprise: The’ve planned for this and it’s working.
‘At the moment,’ says Malakai. ‘Our goal is to continue to expand on the foundation of fans and business relationships that we’ve already built.’ This also includes Ground Up’s long-term mission: To make a positive contribution to hip-hop culture and music as a whole. Accomplishing this relies on a solid take of the ‘DIY’ approach that has Ground Up’s best friends positioned and excelling in key areas of the business.
Ground Up’s style is undeniably unique and three-dimensional. Their content and musical arrangements encapsulate a range of subject matter in a refreshingly honest way that attracts listeners and keeps fans. Many tracks have an aesthetic appeal, although unmistakeningly ‘Ground Up,’ to foster widespread demand worthy of the Billboard Hot 100. This is an unintentional, yet unignorable, crossover into the mainstream.
At the same time, rap purists and the ‘anti-pop’ require little time to see Ground Up is as ‘real’ as hip-hop gets. Ground Up tells it straight and the fans know it. Achieving the powerful element of listener-musician trust isn’t artificially cultivated- rather-it’s the natural tendency of Ground Up- nothing is contrived.