CAN'T HOLD US by MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
Ben Haggerty is a rapper from Seattle, Washington, who records under the name of Macklemore. After releasing his debut solo album, The Language of My World, in 2005, Macklemore was forced to take a break in order to battle his addiction to drugs and alcohol. After cleaning himself up in 2008, Macklemore teamed up with producer Ryan Lewis to become a collaborative and creative unit, having originally met through MySpace. Without a publishing or record deal, the pair spent several years recording their first album together, The Heist. Independently produced and recorded by the duo, the record debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 after being released on October 9, 2012.
This song was used to soundtrack an international Miller Genuine Draft advertising campaign during the summer of 2012. Its use helped increase Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' recognition in Europe.
Although originally released before "Thrift Shop," the song served as the follow up single to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' #1 hit. Its sales were boosted by a performance of the song on Saturday Night Live.
The song's music video finds the duo and guest singer Ray Dalton traveling the globe with their live band. The clip was created entirely by Macklemore and Lewis with their friends. The filming took place for three months, in over six continents and sixteen different shoots, ranging from New Zealand landscapes to the Space Needle in the duo's native Seattle. Lewis noted that his collaborators, "simply don't work within the conventional hierarchy of the film industry (director, producer, etc.) Sure, people have concrete pre-defined roles based on their expertise, but our team has the remarkable ability to wear multiple hats. 'Can't Hold Us' was a video that showcased this well."
Ray Dalton's chorus was actually the last part of the song to be crafted. "What happened was we were looking for a hook and it had no hook. There was just space; there weren't even words," Dalton explained to MTV News. "So when Ryan was testing my levels, I started humming them a melody, and that melody is what is now today the 'Can't Hold Us' song. [Then] Ben was like, 'Say this.' And I was reading the words to the melody that I made, and that's just how it happened."
At the time of Dalton's interview with MTV News, most internet sites listed the beginning of the chorus as "Here we go back. This is the moment," Dalton pointed out that he is actually singing "Can we go back..."
When this climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 to become Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' second #1 following "Thrift Shop," the pair became the first ever duo to take its first two singles to the chart's peak position.
This was the most-streamed song globally in 2013 on the music subscription site Spotify. "Thrift Shop" was also placed at #3 for the year, whilst The Heist was the most-streamed album on the service.
SAME LOVE by MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
This song finds Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, detailing the struggles of a gay man throughout his life. Though straight himself, when Haggerty was in the third grade, he'd decided that he must be homosexual as he was artistic, tidy-minded and had an uncle who was in a same-sex relationship. It was his mom who reassured him he was not. Speaking with The Associated Press, Haggerty said the song's popularity affirms the changes in attitude within the notoriously homophobic Hip-Hop world. "I hope we're part of that transformation," said the rapper. "I don't think a song like 'Same Love' would have been received the same way even five years ago. We as a society and a culture have proven throughout time that we evolve, that we become slowly more compassionate and tolerant and accepting. The last couple hundred years in American culture have shown that. Obviously, there's give and take. There's times when we haven't and times that we lose ourselves, but I do think we're evolving as a society and hip-hop is a reflection of that."
Michigan performing arts teacher Susan Johnson found herself in the news after being suspended in November 2012 without pay for a couple of days. Her misdemeanor was allowing one of her eighth-grade students to play this song in her classroom. According to Johnson, the principal was unhappy about the song's use of the words 'faggot' and 'damn' and its pro-gay and anti-church content.
When this song replaced "Thrift Shop" at #1 on the Australian ARIA Charts in January 2013, Macklemore and Lewis became only the third act to replace themselves at the top of the ARIA countdown after Madonna in 1985 and the Black Eyed Peas in 2009.
The "love is patient, love is kind" lyric is a quote from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 13 v4 where the Apostle explains that true love is totally unselfish and directed outwardly to others rather than inward to oneself. It was Lambert who felt moved to include a Biblical reference adding, "My conscience is clear, I'm good with God," and "Not crying on Sundays." "It was in a positive aspect," she told The Seattle Times. "It was me saying, 'I am a gay Christian. I am comfortable.' I don't feel like it's bashing anyone."
The song was inspired by Macklemore's gay uncles and gay godfather, and is an issue that is personal to him. "I was really nervous to play it for them," he told The Independent On Sunday. "It's obviously a very personal song, and I didn't want to cross any boundaries in terms of their privacy. But we actually ended up taking a picture of them and using it as the cover art for the single.
"I wanted the art to reflect how personal the song was, and they are a big reason why I'm so passionate about the issue."
Mary Lambert told MTV News: "I didn't want to say this at the time, because I'm not egotistical, but I felt like this was the song I was meant to write, this is completely my story, my experience in the church, and being a lesbian."
"After we wrote it, I thought of it as Ben [Haggerty] being the brain," she added, "and the pragmatic part of the song, thinking about it intellectually, and I provided the heart and the emotional spark. And that's what makes an anthem, and I think that's why it's taken off."
This won for Best Video With A Social Message at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Accepting the award, Macklemore said: "I've been writing songs since I was 15 years old, and out of every single song I have ever written, to me this is the most important record out of all of them. To watch the song in the last year spread across the world is a testament to what is happening right now in America on the forefront of equality. Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation."
Structurally, this song is fairly straightforward: its form is simply three repetitions of verse/chorus (A-B-A-B-A-B) covering a 5:19 running time. What is unusual is how long it takes to reach the first chorus, which doesn't occur until 1:28.
This earned a Grammy nomination for Song Of The Year, but lost to "Royals" by Lorde (they did win for Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, and "Thrift Shop" won for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song). Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed the song at the ceremony, where they were joined on stage by Mary Lambert, Trombone Shorty, Queen Latifah and Madonna.
When Macklemore finished his last verse, Latifah presided over a wedding ceremony where 33 couples in the audience - some gay, some straight - exchanged rings. "By the power invested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you a married couple," she declared. As the couples embraced, Madonna appeared on stage and sang part of her song "Open Your Heart" over the "Same Love" groove.
Ken Ehrlich, who produced the telecast, said that the idea for the mass marriage came from reports of wedding proposals at Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concerts.
DOWNTOWN by MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
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.
WHITE PRIVILEGE II by MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
This is a sequel to "White Privilege," a track that appeared on Macklemore's 2005 solo album The Language of My World. The song finds the rapper rhyming for nine minutes about a variety of issues concerning racial tensions and engaging with the black community. Topics he references include white supremacy and the Black Lives Matter movement.
"This song is the outcome of an ongoing dialogue with musicians, activists, and teachers within our community in Seattle and beyond," Macklemore wrote. "Their work and engagement was essential to the creative process."
When the original "White Privilege" was released in 2005, few people knew who Macklemore was. However, his message has evolved, now he has recognition in mainstream America as a white rapper. "Writing that song in 2004 - that was a different version of me," he told Complex in 2015. "I was an unknown. I was making an observation: Look at what's happened. Pointing - not in a negative way - but making cultural observation."
"Fast-forward ten years, my vantage point isn't pointing the finger at anyone else anymore," Macklemore continued. "It's pointing the finger at myself. It was pointing the finger at myself then, too, questioning things. But it's different when - cultural appropriation and white privilege in regard to hip-hop - you're the example."
Miley Cyrus, Elvis Presley and Iggy Azalea are all namechecked in the lyrics. Macklemore includes them as examples of white artists that have been accused of appropriating African-American music and culture.
Iggy Azalea shared her thoughts on being called out on the track, tweeting. "He shouldn't have spent the last three yrs having friendly convos and taking pictures together at events etc if those were his feelings."
Macklemore told Rolling Stone that his bars weren't intended as a slight to those mentioned. "For me, that second verse is unpacking," he said. "It's an unpacking moment of internalized criticism and self-doubt, and 'What have I done,' and letting the criticism infiltrate who I am. 'Why am I insecure at a protest?' And I think that people get put into boxes, and the conversation around cultural appropriation -- I was at the forefront of that, rightfully so. And that conversation also included Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea, and that's why their names are on the record."
The song features the Chicago-based poet and singer Jamila Woods, who is best known for her vocal contributions on the Donnie Trump and The Social Experiment tracks "Sunday Candy" and "Questions."
The track was born from a Seattle protest following the non-indictment of Darren Wilson - the white cop who fatally shot black teenager Mike Brown. It was an unnamed veteran rapper who then inspired Macklemore to create the track. "It was a long night. And that ended up getting news coverage. Then I got on the phone with an O.G., whose name I want to keep off the record. A hip-hop artist I'd never talked to before," recalled the Seattle MC.
"He sent me a DM on Twitter and then he called me, and he said, 'I see you, I see what you're doing.' He was very complimentary about the music we've made, and it led into him saying, 'You have a platform, but silence is an action, and right now, you're being silent," Macklemore continued. "You're not saying anything about what's going on, and because you're a white rapper you have perspective and an insight onto these issues that you need to be speaking about. It's very important that you engage your audience.'"
The song was co-written by Macklemore's step cousin Tyler "XP" Andrews, one of six This Unruly Mess I've Made tracks he has credits on. He recalled to Genius: "On 'White Privilege II' a lot of people like Jamila Woods, Nikkita, and Hollis had input. Mostly just having conversation. Him and Ryan being like, 'How should we approach this? And is it OK to say some of these things that I want to say?' Once they got into the process of making the song, the one thing I wrote is the chant. 'The blood in the streets, no justice, no peace.' I wrote that for the ladies to sing. We recorded a huge choir—like 10 people, male and female. I helped direct that choir since I have Baptist church experience."
"I was drawing from our conversations," Andrews continued. "I'm sure from the rallies I've been to, too. If anything, it's a war cry, and it's more spiritual than anything. Probably something I channel—the s--t is in my blood. People before me. My whole family is growing through this s--t. This ain't anything new under the sun. It was almost 500 years old. It's a part of right now. It's a part of the past. That's what we felt and what was happening at the time."
GROWING UP by MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS
Ben "Macklemore" Haggerty became a father for the first time when his fiancée Tricia Davis gave birth to Sloane Ava Simone Haggerty on May 29, 2015. This reflective ode finds the Seattle rapper dispensing life advice to his baby daughter in the verses.
Ed Sheeran croons the chorus, which captures Macklemore's sentiments of uncertainty about his new role as a father.
Macklemore the story behind the song in a letter to his fans on his website: "I wish that I could say that I was in a 'better place" when I found out the news. It would make for a far more polished and respectable story. But I think back to that night: praying on the floor at 2 am as Tricia went to the bathroom to take a pregnancy test I'd just purchased from Walgreens. I was scared. Scared to start working on new music. Scared of trying again and failing. Scared of the process of staring at myself through a page and seeing something that I wasn't proud of. Someone that I didn't like. Someone that wasn't ready to be a dad."
"I've always had some make-believe image in my head of who I would be as a father. I held on to clear expectations of where I wanted to be in my career, my age, my level of self-care, and my maturity. I basically assumed that I'd have it all together. But in actuality the hypothetical 'dad' version of me looked completely different than the man whose heart was beating out of his chest on the carpet, praying to a god or spirit I hadn't talked to in months. When Tricia walked out of the bathroom, I knew. And I knew I had to change."
"5 months later we were recording in a remote cabin away from the density that is Seattle. I was finally having fun in the studio for the first time in years. Songs were getting made, finally. I was going back to the city once a week to attend birthing class with Tricia. When I got back to the cabin the next day, Ryan (Lewis) had made a new beat that would eventually become the song that you're listening to. Half of it is advice about growing up. The other half is trying to figure out how to grow up myself."
Writing the lyrics was an emotional experience for Macklemore. "I wrote the words, 'They say boys don't cry, but your dad has shed a lot of tears,'" he recalled to MTV News, referencing the song's opening lines, "and immediately just welled up, and it just kind of came."
Macklemore originally approached Adele to appear on the song. When she passed, he turned to Ed Sheeran, who recorded the vocals instead.
Asked by The Sun how he felt about being turned down by the superstar, Macklemore replied: "Adele's management said she had to focus on putting out her record as 'Hello' was about to drop any minute and Adele hadn't done any collaborations. They were very sweet and said that she was a fan of the music and just the timing wasn't right so maybe another time we will."
He added: "Ed is a great dude, he is one of my favorite people. He is just a brilliant songwriter and a great friend. Before we'd ever met, I'd heard he was covering my song 'Same Love' off The Heist. Then we were both in Buffalo, New York, and he came to the show and we brought him out and he did various parts on Same Love. Then we went to a casino and stayed up super-late and had a great time."