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Jay-Z recorded “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” in one take

Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” the single from Jay-Z‘s third album Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life which turned him into a superstar was recorded in one take.

The song, produced by The 45 King, at the time of its release in 1998 was the most commercially successful Jay-Z single. The nostalgic sample from the 1977 musical Annie signaled a new era for Jay-Z. It transformed Jay-Z’s career from respected New York MC to American popstar, making him reach a wider audience worldwide. The song only peaked at no. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was everywhere on the radio.

“From standin’ on the corners boppin’
To drivin’ some of the hottest cars New York has ever seen
For droppin’ some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard
From the dope spot, with the smoke Glock
Fleein’ the murder scene, you know me well”

The producer of “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” revealed Jay-Z recorded the song in one take.

“I was lucky enough to see Jay lay down the vocals, he didn’t have any papers, he did it in one take and.. thats Jay-Z” – The 45 King, producer of “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”

“That’s one of the songs that, was almost like a conversation for me. It’s not anything to think about, the chorus already dictates where the song should go and what should be said , i probably did the song in maybe five minutes” Jay-Z adds

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In 2001, shortly after Jay-Z brought the King of Pop on stage at Hot 97’s “Summer Jam” festival, Jay-Z revealed to MTV that Michael Jackson told him he was a huge fan of “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”

Jay-Z also told Blues and Soul the story of the song:

“What happened was I was on tour and Kid Capri played me the track. Mark ’45’ King had produced it, and at the time it was just beats and the sampled hook. You know, Mark’s known for making famous hip hop beats like ‘900 Number’ with no rap on them. So, once I heard it, I was like ‘I gotta have that’ – and I tracked Mark down. At first he was like ‘Nah man, it’s for my compilation album,’ but he eventually let me have it. 

Listen to “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”