In order to clear the sample for his smash hit “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” which was produced by The 45 King, Jay-Z lied to the Annie original songwriters, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin in a letter talking about how much the TV version of Annie meant to him growing up because he had won an essay-writing contest and saw Annie on Broadway as a kid. Both ended up being a lie. He only watched it on TV.
“I wrote a letter about how much Annie meant to me growing up and how I went to a Broadway play — which was an exaggeration. “I saw it on TV. It was a bad lie … for a good reason.” Jay-Z told the NPR in a 2010 interview.
Jay-Z also explained how he lied to secure the Annie sample in his 2010 memoir, Decoded.
“We might not all have literally been orphans, but a whole generation of us had basically raised ourselves in the streets. So I decided to write the company a letter myself. I made up this story about how when I was a seventh-grader in Bed-Stuy, our teacher held an essay contest and the three best papers won the writers a trip to the city to see Annie. A lie. I wrote that as kids in Brooklyn we hardly ever came into the city. True. I wrote that from the moment the curtain came up I felt like I understood honey’s story. Of course, I’d never been to see Annie on Broadway. But I had seen the movie on TV. Anyway, they bought it, cleared it, and I had one of my biggest hits.”
“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.