This song celebrating street corner capitalism features backing vocals from Beyoncé, Cassie and an uncredited Kanye West. It was produced by Diddy and 2 of his producers known as LV and Sean C from his production team, The Hitmen.
This samples Menahan Street Band's "Make the Road by Walking." According to boomkat.com, the Menahan Street Band is a "collaborative effort from members of The Dap-Kings, El Michel's Affair, and Budos Band."
The video was directed by Chris Robinson, who also directed Jay Z's promo for "'03 Bonnie And Clyde." It features cameo appearances from many of Jay Z's fellow artists including DJ Clue, Diddy, Nas, The-Dream, Swizz Beatz, Beanie Sigel, Cassie, Mariah Carey, and Cam'Ron. Kanye West said he couldn't take part as he was in Dubai, but he was "Salty" that he missed it. He added that "The scene with Jay, Puff, and Nas is iconic. 3 kings!"
Jay-Z explained the video on MTV news: "The 'Roc Boys' is the height of celebration. You can't celebrate by yourself, so I invited all these great people to be a part of the video. It just felt like a celebration... It was natural."
The album is not the soundtrack for the movie American Gangster, which stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Instead, Jay Z was inspired to make another album with the same theme in which he tells the story of a Brooklyn teen getting into the drug trade and then getting stuck in it. He told the Guardian newspaper November 9, 2007 that the moment of inspiration came in a cinema screening room in September 2007. In his capacity of president of Def Jam, he was invited to watch the movie with a viewing for record label distributors. He told the Guardian, "I wasn't even thinking about putting out an album this year. But this movie really sparked a zone for me. It took me back to a creative place that I didn't think I'd be able to go back to."
Jay-Z recorded the album in just 4 weeks.
This was Jay-Z's 10th #1 album on The Billboard 200, a feat that tied him with Elvis Presley for having the second highest total of chart-topping titles on this chart. Only The Beatles, with 19, have had more. All 10 of Jay-Z's chart-toppers went straight in at the summit, making the rapper the artist with the highest number of albums that began their chart lives at #1. Jay-Z commented to Rolling Stone magazine Issue 1040 when it looked like he was heading for the #1 slot: "I've got this Elvis thing going on right here. What's great about that, is that I've never had a #1 single on any of my albums. People buy them for the body of work."
The movie American Gangster took $43.6 million in its first few days in America, the most ever raked in for a crime drama in its opening weekend.
R&B singer Cassie spoke to allhiphop.com about her involvement in the recording of "Roc Boys" and its accompanying video: "Puff produced a lot of the album and I was recording my stuff in the studio next door and Puff would be like, 'Cassie, could you come in here real quick and put some vocals on this' and that's how I ended up being on [American Gangster]. When Puffy would have to go to Jay's Roc the Mic studio during the whole recording process, I would go with him and Jay would be there and Beyoncé would be there and it was just really cool to be around that because I look up to all of them. The video was like a real party; there wasn't really any acting going on."