State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Skill Over Swag: A Talk with Ground Up Sounds (Outsource Interview)

Ground Up. From left to right: Malakai, Azar, Bij Lincs. 

By: Derrick Stack

Self-made, original, Philly.

These may be a few of the first words I’d use to describe Ground Up. However, Ground Up is equally defined by what they’re not as much as what they are. What they are not is flashy, phony or filler. What you see is what you get and Ground Up fans would have it no other way.

Ground Up is made up of MC’s Azar and Malakai (who met at Temple freshman orientation ’08) and producer Bij Lincs (long time friend of Azar). Since their fateful 2008 introductions, they’ve produced an impressive amount of quality music. In fact, if you checked their catalog of mix-tapes (which you should) without dates attached; you would have thought they have been at it for the better part of a decade. Simply put, these guys live and breathe music and it’s reflected in their product. These guys aren’t just recording studio heroes either. I checked out one of their shows in State College in the fall of 2010, and these guys threw down, tons of energy.

Last week Ground Up released their 10th (yes, 10th) mix-tape titled “The Get Up.” As of this writing “The Get Up” has nearly 11,000 downloads in less than eight days (click the link below for your FREE download of “The Get Up” from Dat Piff). The mix-tape, as usual, is impressive. It features a strong cast of guest spots including Reef The Lost Cauze, Jade Alston, Freeway, Mazon, Mic Stew, J Nick, Vanessa Winters, and Young Chris. Some can’t miss tracks: “Heard About It”, “Live A Lot”, and the following video, “Overboard”.

Ground Up took some time out of their busy schedule to have a quick chat, but before you read the interview, be sure to grab your best headphones, crank the volume and check out this track featuring Young Chris.


SitR: So you guys came together thanks to the ‘08 incoming freshman class orientation at Temple. Less than 4 years later you’re turning heads in the hip-hop industry; what were your expectations for yourselves in the fall of 2008?

GU: We still haven’t met our expectations in the slightest bit. We’re proud of the progression we’ve made and the movement we’ve built, but there’s so much work still to do. We’re not even close to satisfied.

SitR: There’s no doubting the work ethic and dedication to the craft (10 mix-tapes in under 4 years), what drives the group to keep working as hard as you are?

GU: Our friends, fans and family are our biggest motivators to continue. We all love making music and we’ll probably never stop but the people we surround ourselves with as well as our fans are the people who continue to remind us exactly how much is at stake.

SitR: A reoccurring theme for Ground Up is your sense of family. You keep a tight group of friends around at all times; how does this help the effort to keep the music coming?

GU: Our friends are honest and i believe have extremely good taste in music. They are our biggest fans and critics. I think our song making becomes a personal experience for our friends as well as us; one that we can watch grow from an idea to being performed in front of hundreds of people. It’s an amazing process to be a part of.

SitR: It seems you guys take a lot of pride in taking the DIY approach to music; could you walk us through your writing process from composing a beat to the final product on the release?

GU: Our beats are almost ALL made by our in-house producer, Bij Lincs. Usually Bij will compose the beat and then Malcolm and I will decide on a concept or an idea to run with. Once the lyrics are written, the song is recorded and we proceed by judging whether or not it belongs on a project.

SitR: If we checked out your iTunes recently played, what might we find on that list?

GU: We’re all big music fans with eccentric tastes. Elton John to Jay-Z. Coldplay to Tribe called Quest. We’re all over the place.

BIJ: cee-lo … die antwoord … mills brothers … Joan Armatrading

SitR: In the past you were completely responsible for booking your own shows. You must have ended up in some pretty unusual situations. What are some of your craziest stories from the road?

GU: We have tons of strange things happen to us on a nightly basis when we’re on the road. One that sticks out in my mind was at Cornell University. It involved a big frat house, whiskey shots, strippers, and an ice-luge. That’s really all I can say about the situation.

SitR: What are the best and worst parts of being an up-and-coming artist at the cusp of stardom?

GU: Working as hard as we do, it’s never easy for us when we feel overlooked. I speak for everyone when i say we take our music as well as the business that comes hand in hand with it extremely seriously. When people sleep on us, we all take it personally.

SitR: Last week you released your newest mix-tape, “The Get Up.” What can you tell us about the project?

GU: We worked with a lot of new people on this project hoping to give it a depth that we had not reached yet. We accomplished that and then some with “The Get Up” by reaching out to some of our favorite artists in and around Philadelphia to lend us their talents and help us create a versatile, well-rounded project.

SitR: Looking past the release of “The Get Up”, what can we expect from Ground Up in 2012?

GU: If you haven’t noticed how we work by now, you will in 2012. We won’t stop releasing our style of music to the people that enjoy it, no matter what.

SitR: Many of our readers are musicians attempting to make music more than just a hobby, what advice would you pass along to those balancing music and life?

GU: If music is your dream, nothing should stand in its way. Sacrifice everything you can to keep that dream alive. If you believe in it that much, you’ll be fine when all is said and done.

SitR: Last but not least, we gotta know, when will you be back in Penn State?

GU: Sooner than later, hopefully this spring.  It’s always a good day in Happy Valley.


Well there you have it. Check out the links below to get more Ground Up, show them some love, and encourage them to make a return trip to the happiest valley of all.

“Like” and follow them on Facebook:

Free download of “The Get Up”:

Ground Up Website: