Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)

Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)


The song that made Jay-Z a superstar. Famously sampling “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from the Annie movie (1982), Jay raps about his rags-to-riches story (it’s slightly different than Annie’s). Jay-Z transposes this into a song about how he overcame life in the ghetto to achieve massive success

Jay, via Vibe:

[One of my sister’s names is Andrea], but we call her Annie. That’s how the Annie sample came about. When I seen that on TV, I was like, ‘Annie?’ And then, I watched the movie. […] Any person that goes from ashy to classy or, you know, is from the orphanage or the projects—it’s pretty similar.

As detailed in Decoded, to clear the ‘Annie’ sample, Jay wrote a letter to the song’s copyright holders, telling them that he’d seen the musical on Broadway as a child and written a competition-winning essay on it at school.