Over Ryan Lewis' funky old school beat, Macklemore pays homage to the great hip-hop pioneers. The track features hip-hop legends Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, while singer Eric Nally croons the hook.
Macklmemore told 97.1 Amp Radio morning show host Carson Daly: "It is a record that kind of pays homage to the late 70's, early 80's and what was going on in hip-hop, and what was going simultaneously in rock music, and melding the two worlds together in one record."
After Macklemore & Ryan Lewis embarked on their first world tour in 2012, they each bought mopeds, which allowed them to leave the confines of the venues and see the sights on their travels. This kept the tour experience from becoming the routine of hotel-backstage-show without ever venturing into the local landscape. In this way, the moped became far more than a cheap means of transportation: it was a vessel for freedom.
When Lewis came up with the track, he called it "Moping Around," a work title that Macklemore heard as "Moped Around." That gave him the idea to write a song about mopeds. It started off as jocose song where he was just having fun, but it grew into something much more when they introduced the old-school element and involved the guest vocalists.
Macklemore told MTV News the story of the song. "I was listening to Backspin on XM Radio and hearing these older rappers' cadences and vocal tones and I was like, 'This is so dope, nobody's doing this anymore,'" he said "Ryan was like, 'Yo, you gotta flip something like that for the new album. People aren't doing these old school type cadences.' And so I messed around with that a little bit."
"We were also listening to a lot of Queen and a lot of music from the '70s and it was, 'How could we kind of merge these two worlds, these two very different worlds, in a way that seamlessly worked, that were obviously different, but could live on the same record?'" Macklemore added. "Like, 'Is that even possible?'"
Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel and singer Eric Nally join forces with Macklemore and Lewis on the video as they cruise through the streets of Spokane, Washington on their mopeds. With lots of urban dance-fighting, the Jason Koenig-directed visual contains many elements of the film West Side Story.
Macklemore and crew performed this at the 2015 MTV Music Awards, using many elements from the video. The performance went down outside of the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.
So who is singer Eric Nally, the guy that is crooning the hook? The vocalist was the frontman for the Ohio rock band Foxy Shazam, which formed in 2004 and opened for mainstream acts like The Strokes, Panic! At the Disco, Hole and The Darkness.
Nally also collaborated with Meat Loaf on his Hang Cool Teddy Bear
album, co-penning the tracks "Love is Not Real / Next Time You Stab Me in the Back
" and "California Isn't Big Enough
When Eric Nally got an out-of-the-blue call from Macklemore and Lewis to work on the song, it was perfect timing as the vocalist had just started a hiatus from working with Foxy Shazam. "From what I understand Ryan Lewis is a pretty big fan of Foxy Shazam," he explained to MTV News.
In addition, Macklemore and Lewis' trumpet player and collaborator, Josh "Budo" Karp, had played shows alongside Foxy Shazam during the 2012 Warped Tour. "He [Budo] remembered me and I guess we'd exchanged contacts and he and Ryan thought I'd be a good fit for the track," Nally said. "The next thing I know I'm flying out to Seattle and sitting in a circle with them in a studio working on the chorus and then cameo for the video."
Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., who played for the Seattle Mariners and is beloved in the city, makes an appearance in the video, catching a fish to punctuate the line, "stop by Pike Place, throw a fish to a player."
Pike Place Market is the shopping hub of Seattle, where the fishmongers will sometimes throw a fish - a bit that goes over well with tourists and for years has been a go-to shot for producers looking to set the Seattle scene in myriad video productions. (Like at the beginning of a Mariners game - "we're here in Seattle..." Every city has certain landmarks that identify it visually, but few have anything as kinetic and eye-catching as the flying fish. Along with shots of the Space Needle, this makes the job of compiling scenics for Seattle a no-brainer. What a lot of tourists don't understand, however, is that at the fish market, they will be happy to accommodate camera crews, but if you want the fish to fly, you have to buy one - they have better things to do than throw fish for onlookers all day).
This scene appears at the 1:43 mark; Griffey shows up again at 4:02 riding a two-wheeler.
In both shots, Griffey is rocking the 1989 look from his rookie year. In the fish scene, he is posed like his Upper Deck baseball card and styled the same way, complete with Mariners hat from the era and gold chain.
Like many Mariners supporters, Macklemore is a huge fan of Griffey - he recounts some of the star's on-field heroics on the 2010 track "My Oh My." Getting Griffey in the video was the idea of director Jason Koenig, who is also a big fan.
This was Kool Moe Dee's first Hot 100 appearance since 1999, when Will Smith's "Wild Wild West
" (featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee) topped the chart for a week.