This track introduces American Gangster, Jay-Z's first concept album, which was inspired by the 2007 crime movie of the same name. The rapper had been invited to an advanced screening of the film and it had a profound resonance on him; Hova would play it on the monitors above the recording booth to keep him inspired.
The song features dialogue excerpts from the American Gangster movie, spoken by Denzel Washington.
This was co-produced by British actor Idris Elba, whose roles include Russell "Stringer" Bell in HBO's The Wire and Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Elba started out working as a DJ in clubs in the 1990s and is also known as Driis or Big Driis to his rapper and DJ friends.