Time to Get Up for Ground Up

By Bill Morse
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 9 | Posted Aug. 22, 2012

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Three the hard way: From left, Ground Up's Bij Lincs, and emcees Malakai and Azar

Rap trio Ground Up—MCs Azar and Malakai, along with producer Bij Lincs—eat, sleep and breathe hip-hop. Literally. Every livable square foot of their North Philly home studio is used to capture, create and convey the trio’s diversified sound. They’ve built a sure-fire formula for success on their terms, and by all appearances, their Do-It-Our-Damn-Selves strategy seems to be working as planned; they’ve opened for acclaimed emcee Talib Kweli here and local giant Reef the Lost Cauze in Amsterdam; rhymed alongside heat-bringers like Freeway and Young Chris; and held court in bustling freestyle ciphers on Temple’s campus. With a laser-like focus on “skill over swag,” Ground Up continues to crank out first-rate material —10 mixtapes, in fact, and all of them bangers, from start to finish—for an insatiable and rapidly growing fan base. Oh, and did we mention that they make all that music available for free? 

“We went into this music thing with the mindset that our fans are our best publicists and PR agents that we could ever have, so we decided that the thing that would set us apart is an abundance of not only music, but free music,” Azar—the butter-voiced rhymer, versus Malakai’s gruffer stylings—told us via phone from the group’s creative hub. Instead of pressing up product to sell, they choose to make each Ground Up collection a free download via their website, GroundUpSounds.com, and sell home-burned CDs and selected Ground Up merch at their shows. “Hopefully, our fans accept the trade,” Azar says. “Who are we to sell our music right now when some of the most famous people are still giving away their music for free from time to time? Too many rappers put their CD on iTunes and sell like 10 copies. Good for him, but I don’t want to go on iTunes and sell 10 copies.” He estimates that they’ve given away at least 100,000 recordings in total, each of them serving as bricks in the rock-solid support system they’re creating for when they finally decide to put price tags on all that genius.

But success, like life, is a funny thing, ultimately rooted in what one values—and these Ground Up cats value their independence, so the only standards they live up to, however lofty, are their own. They’ve been hard at work on the Supernatural Series, a succession of skin-tight, lyrically deft singles—buttressed by the clever, psychoactive artwork of friend and cohort Mike Oberlies—available weekly on their site since July 14, all culminating with the release of their latest tape, Supernatural—again, for free—on Sept. 18. “It’s something we’re all extremely excited about,” says Azar. “For the first time in our music-making careers, we put ourselves in a position where we feel we’ve made so much music in the last few months, we’re really able to pick and choose the cream of the crop for this release, and that’s something we weren’t able to do [in the past.]”

Aside from Ground Up’s pending Philly show dates—including tonight in Rittenhouse Square, at PW’s annual Concerts in the Park, performing with and backed by The Lawsuits—their Happy Hour Tour, launched last week in Wildwood, N.J., will wind them through cities including Baltimore, Richmond, New York City and Buffalo—even Toronto, cementing them as international, lovers. “Abroad, you sort of see how fans here take hip-hop for granted,” Azar says. “They love it so much, and they cherish it so much over there because it’s so much less the norm than it is here. Just seeing that passion and that intensity from the fans out there just drove us to be sure we’re coming back.” ■

Wed., Aug. 22, 7 p.m. Free. With The 
Lawsuits. Rittenhouse Square Park, Walnut St. & So. 18th St. philadelphiaweekly.com/concertsinthepark

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Comments 1 - 9 of 9
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1. MC Karma said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 12:14PM

“As a fellow Temple MC who have seen these guys from the beginning they have never "held court in bustling freestyle ciphers on Temple’s campus". In fact, they are mostly known for being divas at Temple. They never came to Freestyle Fridays, nor could they hold their own. These guys are writers, not real MCs who can spit off the top. Look at their music video with Young Chris... that's the cipher spot at Temple, but notice how it's empty? That's because they came to shoot that when we were having the real ciphers and thought they would receive love and thought we'd just stop and let them film... Nope. They had to wait until everyone left before they could even film because no one respects them. That's the truth.”

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2. Mark C said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 12:39PM

“Wow what a hater ^^”

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3. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 12:40PM

“Yo MC.. your A FAGGOT and your jealous that your not going anywhere like ground up is.”

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4. Luey said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 01:03PM

“MC Karma, didn't your mama ever teach you if you can't say something nice....big congrats to Ground Up! Keep up the great work we love you!”

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5. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 01:04PM

“Karma's a Bitch, that cipher will get you no where, grow a pair, write battle track n call it a dare.”

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6. Zack said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 01:14PM

“You realize how ignorant you make yourself sound when you say "These guys are writers, not real MCs..." A rapper is a rapper, regardless of whether they write their lyrics or spit it off the top of their heads. Freestyle lyrics will rarely hold the quality of written lyrics. The Palmer Squares are another couple of MCs that can't freestyle for jack, but to say that they're not "real" rappers, is a load of garbage. Get your head out of your ass.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 01:18PM

“The funny part is I was watching that shoot, they didn't stop Ground Up from filming. They were pissed cause Ground Up didn't ask them to be in the video cause they thought it was their "turf" (Its the bell tower at Temple buddy, its all yours), then The "freestyle Club" tried to start a fight with about 15 of the guys from Ground Up saying they weren't from the block, or the hood and didn't know what real hip hop was.. haha. You freestyle at temple bro.. big ups to you.. I'm gonna call Maniac Malloy and have him take a shit in your pants.. and call it a cypher.”

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8. sCOOPs said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 01:27PM

“This dudes probably loving all the attention, forwarding the link to his boys..
What a lame.. but he'll probably still be at the TLA in September...”

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9. Anonymous said... on Aug 24, 2012 at 04:12PM

“maniac malloy gon fuck this bull up”


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