The Roots’ 4th Of July Jam culminates with Wednesday’s concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with Queen Latifah, Daryl Hall, Common, Joe Jonas and, of course, hometown heroes The Roots. But first up, local rap trio Ground Up performs at the TLA with the Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli as an appetizer of sorts.
The three 22-years olds –gravel-throated MC Alexander Azar, smooth-tongued MC Malcolm McDowell and producer Bijan Houshmadinajad (a.k.a. Bij Lincs) — came together in 2008, when Azar and McDowell began studying at Temple University. (Azar is still working on his degree, and Bij Lincs graduated from The Art Institute Of Philadelphia.) They’ve since transformed a house in North Philadelphia into Ground Up’s headquarters.
“The house is like a factory,” says Azar. “The beats are made upstairs, Malcolm and I have rooms where we write, our manager lives here, our merchandise director lives in the basement, and our videographers also lives with us. Everyone’s always busy. We’re like the Brady Bunch over here –like a family of best friends.”
“It has become more of a lifestyle than a job for us,” adds McDowell. “The work never really stops.”
Ground Up’s work ethic is relentless. In less than four years, they’ve released 10 free mixtapes — most recently, the DJ Damage-hosted “The Get Up”– and the eleventh, “Supernatural,” drops in September. They’ve also self-produced dozens of videos, organized national and international tour dates and launched Ground Up Sounds LLC. They pride themselves on doing it all without support from a record label. “We figured it out as we went along,” says Azar. “There’s no manual for this, so we wrote our own. We’ve been self-sustaining for so long, and have proved that we’re capable of doing all the things a label could do for us for ourselves. We’re gonna remain independent for as long as it feels right.”
If you go
The Roots’ 4th of July Jam
featuring Talib Kweli, Ground Up and Khemist
Tomorrow, 8 p.m.
$32, The TLA