Ground Up to rap at Open M.I.C. Penn State show

Philadelphia-based hip-hop group Ground Up will return to State College for a performance for the Penn State organization Open M.I.C.
Philadelphia-based hip-hop group Ground Up will return to State College for a performance for the Penn State organization Open M.I.C. Photo provided

Philadelphia hip-hop group Ground Up is no stranger to Penn State and the school’s rabid hip-hop fanbase. The trio — MC Malakai, MC Azar and DJ Bij Lincs — will return to Penn State for a concert at the HUB-Robeson Center on Thursday as part of a show sponsored by Open M.I.C. Penn State. The show also will feature a set by OCD: Moosh & Twist.

“We’ve played Penn State three times before,” Malakai said. “It’s always an awesome time up there. We have a lot of fans there, so it’s always nice.”

Ground Up’s popularity has steadily increased in the past seven years. The band’s Facebook page has more than 25,000 likes and the touring schedule has become quite intensive. Recently, the band has even launched its own clothing line.

“We’re becoming professional travelers,” Azar said. “This is our third official national tour; however ... we’ve been doing this since 2008. We started out booking our own shows at places like Penn State, places like West Virginia, places like Pittsburgh.

“What started out as a fun hobby became something we took really seriously,” Azar added. “We did our first song in a closet in a west Philly apartment. The song was just so good we started taking it very seriously, and the rest is history.”

Beyond the standard rap influences, Ground Up offers up a different sound based on three different musical backgrounds.The rappers don’t believe they’re cookie cutter nor are they the standard hip-hop affair.

“I don’t know that we try to fit in at all,” Malakai said. “I’d like to believe we add something to the scene. I’m not exactly sure what is yet, but we bring our own thing. ... We’re real tight.”

“We could list a million different rappers that influence us: the Kanye Wests, the Drakes, the Jay-Zs,” Azar added. “I speak for the whole band when I say that we feel really strongly about particular artists. We all listen to very similar rap music as well. But I think what separates us from a lot of people is that we’re really big fans of music as a whole. Bij Lincs, our producer, draws a lot of influence from 1920s jazz and Muddy Waters. Malakai is a big fan of every from Jay-Z to Coldplay. Myself, you might catch me listening to Elton John one day or Nas the next day.”

The trio believes they bring an “old-school” vibe to their music that several of their contemporaries seem to lack.

“We rap, and nowadays that’s a rare thing,” Malakai said. “We consider ourselves the old school version of the MC. We try to put on quality rap shows. I think it’s rare nowadays.”