Sounding Off, From the Showroom to the Studio

Sounding Off, From the Showroom to the Studio

Philly is home to some of music's most innovative and lyrical maestros known to hip-hop, so it should comes as no surprise that Ground Up is next to hold it down on the mic. The trio consists of Azar and Malakai, the MC's of the collective whose wordplay and thought-provoking lyrics fall nothing short than undeniable, and Bij Lincs, the creator behind the group's eclectic sounds across the airwaves . When the threesome are not dropping heat in the booth, rest assure they're hard at work on their MDCCXI CLOTH apparel line. We got to chat with them and find out a little more about their beginnings on campus and their careers ahead.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

MDCCXI: We pride ourselves on minimalism and cleanliness, like the old adage goes—‘Less is more’

Azar: In one word, I’d say versatile. I don’t think it’d be fair to place our music or our fashion senses in a particular box. We’re fans of all kinds of music genres and clothing designers for that matter. Muddy Waters and Elton John to Tupac and Jay-Z; Supreme and The Hundreds to Raf Simons and Helmut Lang. I’d like to think that we’re all a product of these vastly different things that we all admire.

What was the turning point where you decided to make your craft, your life?

MDCCXI: When we started working with Ground Up and having success with the merch we were producing, it was kinda obvious that everyone knew there was something more there.

Azar: We had just released our first mixtape, Grand Opening, and to our surprise, the kids at Temple seemed to really dig it. We passed out flyers for a week or so advertising a house party/ Ground Up concert and sure enough, there was a line around the block when the night came. Looking back, I doubt that most people who attended were aware of the fact that they were at our house.

What’s your creative process? 

MDCCXI: Getting in a room together for extended periods of time with no real direction. This seems to be the process that turns out the best product.

Azar: It varies depending on the circumstance. Sometimes Malcolm or myself will have a verse, chorus, or concept in mind for a long time before asking Bij to build a beat around it. Other times, Bij will have a beat ready to go and we’ll just write until we find something that “speaks” to us. Sometimes though, we just start everything from scratch, simultaneously.

What's your favorite place to create?

Azar: Our house … usually Bij's room because that is where we record. We have lived in many houses over the span of our career. It sort of acts as a creative hub for all of our friends because we surround ourselves with them every day. Many friends come and go and I would like to say it’s their presence that inspires us the most.  

Where did you get thee concept for your latest line/album?

MDCXXI: Our latest line is based upon creating our first cut and sew line, we wanted the perfect pattern, that was our goal.

Bij: Our last album was focused on where Ground Up started, 1711.  It was the number of our house in Temple University. It was a project that represented the structure of how we work together no matter where we live. Even though we don't live there any more, we seem to carry the same working formula we learned under that roof, everywhere. 

First album you bought?

MDCCXI: Nas—Illmatic

Azar: I asked my mom to buy me Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life and she reluctantly obliged. I believe it came out in ’98 so I must’ve been 8 years old. 

Bij: Puff Daddy, No Way Out…my older brother had to buy it for me.

In what ways does where you’re from influence what you create?

Azar: Coming from a relatively small town and moving to North Philadelphia eight years ago has given me a unique perspective on countless things that I touch on in our music. Everything from police brutality to white privilege but also things less politically driven like love and partying as well. 

Bij: I grew up in a musical household which was fun. I was never much of an athlete but I played sports too. Sports are important because it shows you how to work with a team. However, growing up in a musical background helped build my passion for life. Violin was the first instrument i played because i was very inspired by classical music. i then began to become very influenced by jazz. I picked up guitar and piano when I was 18 and haven't stopped ever since. 

If you could choose a different career what would it be?

Azar: I like to think I chose the perfect career because I wake up excited everyday. But, if something were to ever drastically change, I think I’d enjoy teaching history or an english class. 

Bij: Music is what makes me happy, I do not know what I would do with out it. So if that means keeping another job to help me float, that is what I have to do. I am married to my craft, so it will always be my everyday but if I could be anything I wanted in a snap of a finger, I'd be a pirate. 

Who is your mentor? Do you mentor?

Azar: Too many to count but my mother is at the top of my list. She’s never failed at anything she’s tried. I like to think I’ve helped mentor some young artists. I'm happy to share any and all wisdom I’ve acquired with anyone who’s willing to listen. That being said, I still have a lot to learn. 

Favorite art medium outside of your own?

Azar: Fashion design by far. A distant second would be filmmaking. 

Bij: Painting, anyone who knows me or has been in my studio knows that I am a full-time creative. I surround myself with art given to me from family and friends, whether it be an old painting or a flower left behind to dry. Anything that isn't loved, I love even is art. 

How will you know you’ve made it?

MDCCXI: When I have a full studio dedicated to creation.

Azar: When ALL my friends who have supported me can quit their jobs. 

Bij: I've made it, I'm happy...I just wanna buy my mom a horse. 

Who do you want to see listen to your album/rock your line?

Azar: The youth. I know that's a vague statement but I can’t stress it enough. Young people control this world. 

What is your dream collaboration?

MDCXXI: Kith NYC, Fear of God, OFF White

Azar: Elton John and Kanye West. I’d also like to make some clothing with Virgil Abloh, I think his ability to blend streetwear with high fashion is genius. 

Bij: A dream collaboration would be to work on a movie with Woody Allen. I got tons of movie ideas and I know he would be able to make them!

We can't wait to hear more from the guys and see what new creations they have in store both musically and on the fashion side of things. 

Follow Ground Up on Twitter for all recent news and updates and don't forget to grab of few pieces of their MDCCXI CLOTH apparel in our Be Fresh Pop Up Shop!


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