Ground Up started taking shape in summer 2008 at Temple University’s Freshmen Orientation in North Philadelphia. It was here Ground Up’s two MCs Azar (Alexander Azar) and Malakai (Malcolm McDowell) met. A shared affinity for spoken and written word inspired the plan to co-create music in the Fall.
Reuniting as agreed, Azar and Malakai were soon entrenched in their craft churning out hip-hop tracks in their dorm/studio. As the duo progressed it was clear they had something worthy of more attention. This prompted Azar to call on Ground Up’s exclusive producer (and Azar’s longtime friend) Bij Lincs (Bijan Houshmadinajad) who completed the head-nodding trifecta. Lincs brings to the mix, among other things, distinct, genre-bending aural landscapes ideal for the two respective lyricist’s styles.
In under three years Ground Up has released 9 mixtapes met with increasing acclaim by critics, fans and contemporaries alike. They’ve established a distinct persona actively embraced by their growing audience and facilitated in large part by Social Media.
Ground Up has self-booked multi-state tours opening for artists including Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Black Star and The Wu-Tang Clan. Young Chris, Freeway, Peedi Crakk and Chad Ginsburg (CKY) and others have appeared as featured artists on various mixtape tracks. Producers have also gravitated toward Ground Up with Mike Jerz, Dirty Harry and Ritz Reynolds among those who’ve guest produced on Ground Up tracks
‘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. The framework for this is their in-house approach that has Ground Up’s best friends positioned (and excelling) in key areas of the business according to expertise.
When afforded the time to pause and reflect on their past achievements it’s easy for Ground Up to become humbled. However humbled in reflection, their success doesn’t come as a surprise: They’ve planned for this and it’s working.
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 of their songs have broad listener appeal despite the hip-hop label. Rap purists and the ‘anti-pop’ require little evidence before confirming for themselves that Ground Up’s as ‘real’ as hip-hop gets. Ground Up tells it straight and the fans know it. Achieving the powerful dynamic of listener-musician trust isn’t artificially cultivated. Rather, it’s the very nature of Ground Up. Nothing is contrived.