"Thou Shalt Always Kill" started life as a Scroobius Pip spoken-word composition, one he would perform and use as a piece of improvisation depending on current events or things happening on that night.
"I'd use it at spoken word gigs because it was an easy one to adapt," said Pip in an extensive interview with the London Real podcast in 2014. "So if someone's overrun hugely, or been really condescending or anything like that, you can add "thou shalt not be a condescending prick"... you could just adapt bits, but put it into an already solidly structured piece. So I knew I already had the bits that would make the serious, social points, but I could add a lot of different areas if I needed to."
The piece took on a whole new look when Pip started his collaboration with Dan le Sac, who had started by remixing several of Pip's existing compositions from his first solo album, No Commercial Breaks. Pip discussed this in the 2014 interview with London Real: "He sent over this one beat, and I think he was watching (the film) The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and by the time he'd finished, I'd written and recorded the vocal, and sent it back. I don't even know the length of The 40-Year-Old Virgin! It was all over email. That was the original vocal that was on the video, and got played on XFM."
There is a common misnomer that Rob da Bank on Radio 1 gave "Thou Shalt Always Kill" its debut on mainstream radio - it was in fact John Kennady on his Xposure show on XFM, though the duo later signed to Rob da Bank's Sunday Best record label. The duo confirmed this: "We made some CDs and sent them out, not expecting them to get anywhere, and John Kennady picked it up."
A lot of the success of the single came from the distinctive, low-budget music video, which uses distinct imagery based on the lyrics of the songs. For example, for the lyrics dismissing certain huge music acts as "just a band," Pip holds and throws away vinyl casings for those bands. "We had about £200," noted Pip in the 2014 London Real interview. "It was all done with a lot of love and creativity more than anything. And then it went up on YouTube just as YouTube was starting to become a real channel for that kind of... art, that sounds too pretentious! - for music, for whatever you wanted to put on there. It was a time when previously you couldn't have that kind of exposure, you had to be on a major level, and on MTV, or you didn't have it. Whereas we made this video for a couple of hundred quid! It was a lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff but also a lot of social commentary, which you're not going to walk into radio play with that, but because of things like YouTube, if it was something that people could relate to and interact with, you've got your audience."
Presenter Brian Rose also noted that the nature of YouTube in those days helped. He stated: "Back then people forget that there weren't that many videos on YouTube, no music videos, so if you had something hot, it really got picked up on quickly."
The lyrics are structured as a series of spoof commandments, railing against aspects of popular culture and promoting a message of individuality and free thinking, with the recurring motif of "thou shalt not..." beginning most lines. The list of targets commandments varies from not buying Coca Cola or Nestle products, not watching Hollyoaks (a soap opera on UK television), not "worshipping pop idols or following lost prophets" (references to UK talent show Pop Idol and Welsh band Lostprophets), and not reading NME (British alternative music magazine).
The central bridge demands that "Thou shalt not put recording artists on ridiculous pedestals, no matter how great they are or were" and lists a selection of classic bands (The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Sex Pistols) and modern acts currently popular (Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party) decrying them all as "just a band" before finishing with "The next big thing: just a band." The lyrics conclude by demanding, "Thou shalt think for yourselves, and most importantly of all, thou shalt always kill," with "kill" being used in the hip-hop sense of "killing it," or putting on a fantastic show.