“Can’t Knock the Hustle” was released as the third single from JAY-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt and featured a guest appearance from R&B superstar Mary J. Blige. She got on the track as a favor to her friend Dame Dash and she was paid $10,000 in cash from a paper bag but her label didn’t allow her to appear in the music video. Mary sang portions of Meli'sa Morgan’s first verse from the 1986 track “Fool’s Paradise” for the chorus, and the beat was sampled from Marcus Miller’s “Much Too Much.” Jay also released the “Fool’s Paradise Remix” with a guest appearance from Meli'sa Morgan.

Jay explained the concept of “Can’t Knock the Hustle” in an interview with NPR:

It sounds like I’m saying, you can’t knock my hustle. But what – who I was talking to was the guys on the street because rap was my hustle and like, at the time, street – the streets was my job.

Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke added:

He wasn’t talking about hustling, he was talking about the music business [being] the hustle. He was talking to everybody else like, ‘Don’t knock us.’ ‘Cause that’s the new hustle. That’s why it’s so funny — people don’t understand the genesis. It was a representation of us and our life together.