Philly based rap group, Ground Up, has spent year gaining the likes of music lovers from their small hometown in Philly all the way up North in Canada. In between sit downs at Pandora and entertaining their more than 6,000+ followers on social media, Azar, Malakai, and Bij Lincs along with Deane are destined to bring greatness to Ground Up and truly portray what it can be. To add to their musical achievements, the guys have branch out to create a line of unique urban gems that reflect them each individually yet challenges the fashion world around them.
As the fellas gear up for their May 21 debut show, I caught up with Deane to uncover it all.
Krissy: Who is Ground up?
Deane: It’s a group of best friends that were able to create something really beautiful that was able to inspire people – that was the music. It’s a group of best friends having a lot of fun and making some good quality music.
Krissy: How did the name Ground Up become the name of the group and brand?
Deane: There’s one MC, Azar, it’s a name that he had for a while when he was doing some solo work, so when he linked Bij Lincs and Malakai they stuck with the name that he already had.
Krissy: What’s your role in Ground Up and Death & Axes?
Deane: I’m the Brand Director and Designer. I facilitate and direct the day-to-day operations in design and production for the merch and clothing, and I’m one of the three designers of everything we make.
Krissy: What influence you guys to create a clothing brand for Ground Up?
Deane: It was kinda a brainchild out of necessity. It started as just the regular merch, the guys didn’t really have anyone facilitating it and it was a little unorganized when I got there, so I just took the role. We obviously saw it as another form of revenue and all of us have a strong desire for high-end fashion and I think collectively we have a good eye as well. We all knew that someday we wanted to that merch to grow into a clothing line.
Krissy: Why partner with Death & Axes? Why did you think it would be a good fit?
Deane: When we were on tour out in Canada, we met a kid that we all went to high school with, so we reconnected with him. We found out later that he was the man behind Death and Axes and it seemed like a really good aesthetic at the time. There’s a correlation in his design aesthetic between the death of old styles and music we created and a rebirth of some new directions we’re taking. We developed six or seven designs with him, so he came down to Philly from Canada and it grew organically. He happened to meet what we were looking for at that time.
Krissy: How would you describe Ground Ups aesthetic?
Deane: It’s really eclectic and it depends on which one of the guys you ask at what time of the day. It’s interesting, Bij, who produces the music, would go up to his room and he’ll listen to Jazz or any type of older music. Al’s current hip-hop but he’s wearing a rock band tour t-shirt, and Malcolm (Malakai) just kind of wears what he’s got. I think eclectic is the best way to put it, a little modern day hip hop with some old school rock.
Krissy: How would you describe the wearer of Death & Axes x Ground Up?
Deane: I like to think we are a little bit ahead of our time as far as designs are concerned. We’re going for the kid that’s 15-22 years old, who’s looking for an underground brand with hidden. With fashion now everyone is looking for that next brand. That’s why we call [our pieces] collections, we consider our costumers collectors.
Krissy: What can we expect from the line?
Deane: Two hoodies, four different hats, and three T-shirt designs.
Krissy: Why debut your line with Colabination and The Urban Atlas?
Deane: Another thing that kind of grew organically is my relationship with Scott Latham and it’s funny because Alexis Canary, who works at Colabination, she helped design Ground Up’s old mixtape cover for Higher Ground. We’ve known her from back in the day and it’s interesting because I don’t think we’ve talked in three years at that point, then all of a sudden we get an email and it’s from Alexis. We were in with Colabination from the beta stages, we had a store with them and then with this, we just wanted as much power behind it and I know Colabination is popular right now. They have a great following and we just wanted to do an equally beneficial release with them.
Krissy: What influence does Philly have on your brand?
Deane: I definitely think it does. It has a griddy underground aesthetic with a touch of class that is felt when I’m in Philly. I think all of us feel that and we try to protrude into the designs and clothing that we make.
Krissy: How often do you release new merchandise?
Deane: We definitely do not go by the fashion calendar. We like things to grow organically, so we’re going to go with this until we get our next flood of inspiration. We make stuff as it comes to us, everything we do is limited releases. We want to base our stuff on hype. You’ll be wearing something that not every guy walking in Urban Outfitters can get. The benefit of our brand is you’re going to be able to stand out.
Krissy: What has been one of your most ground- breaking moments when you guys were creating the line?
Deane: I didn’t expect us to be changing our name. We’re not going by MDCCXI anymore, but we haven’t made the next step in that yet, we just know that MDCCXI is not working. I didn’t foresee a rebranding. It’s purely Ground up and Death & Axes. By the time our next release comes out we should have everything settled.
Krissy: You guys are having your release show at Bourbon & Branch, why that location?
Deane: We have a really good relationship with the promoter, it’s a place we’ve played at many times, and it’s a real intimate setting. It’s 100-person capacity and we just wanted the show to be special for the fans and the people purchasing tickets. We’re going to be doing some cool stuff, every fan is going to get the chance to meet the guys and we’re going to do Polaroid pictures signed by the guys that they can take home.
Krissy: What inspires you guys to keep going?
Deane: Usually it involves us being in a room, making fun of each other. We have a griup text for me, Al, and Bijan and we’ll just throw out an idea and it’s like dud that’s the dumbest f*cking thing I’ve heard. Other times, it’s like, dude let’s go make 20 of them tomorrow. Bij is also a Photoshop maniac so he does a lot of messing around. He’ll do T-shirt mockups and send them to us. It’s really interesting when you get them flowing in your group text.
Be sure to check out Ground Up's collection debut on May 21st. You don't want to miss the hidden gems.