Kyle Anderson
September 16, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s official. ”Pumped Up Kicks” — the ubiquitous and catchy Foster the People single that reached No. 3 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 — has made the long journey from Internet phenomenon to major crossover smash. But with its sneakily violent chorus (”All the other kids with the pumped up kicks/You better run, better run, outrun my gun”), it’s an unusual choice for a heavy-rotation hit. Nobody is more ready to admit that than songwriter and frontman Mark Foster. ”It’s f—ing weird,” he says. ”I never expected it to be a huge song when I was writing it.”

The song’s winding road to the top (it was just certified platinum) began when the then-unsigned L.A.-based group put it up on their website back in early 2010. It got passed around on blogs, which eventually led to a deal with Columbia Records. In a perfect piece of California cultural synergy, the harmonies in the chorus came from a Fleetwood Mac obsession, but the words were pure Tupac. ”I wanted to write the chorus like the lyrics to a hip-hop song,” Foster explains. ”Like, ‘Here’s who I am, I’m tougher than you and I’ll f— you up.’ I think a lot of people want to feel that way.”

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