Matisyahu began writing this song about six months before he made his religious transformation. He was a student at the New School in New York City, and through friends, he met a producer in Philadelphia who had a home studio where Matisyahu (Matthew Miller at the time) recorded the track for this song. He told Songfacts: "Flash forward about, I don't know, six months, a year, and I'd become very religious - moved to Brooklyn to an ultra-orthodox neighborhood, no longer listening to music, watching TV, not really seeing any of my friends. I'm just spending pretty much all day with a group of men in a Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Completely changed my life 180 degrees.
But I had, still, this burning desire to do music. So on Fridays we used to get permission to leave the Yeshiva to basically prosthelytize to other Jews in the city. You know, give them candles. I got permission to go to Philadelphia for Shabbat and be back on Sunday to record the song that I wanted to do.
So I went to this producer's house, and I sang him this melody. (Sings melody.) And that was like the initial hook of the initial 'King Without a Crown,' which didn't really even make it to the recording that most people know. So I sang in that, I did a little beat box thing for him, picked out some chords and put it down, and we put a little beat together. And that was really the first song that I'd recorded in quite some time.
I went and had him play the song on a loop, and I wrote all those lyrics right then and there and the chorus in maybe 20 or 30 minutes. I put them down and then went back to the Yeshiva and I burned a CD of that song. That was before iPods – I had my Discman.
In the summer the Yeshiva went up to the Catskills, and so we drove up to the Catskills, and we spent three months up there just in the middle of nowhere. And the only music that I had with me was that song. And I would say maybe once a week or so I would sort of walk down into the woods, leave everybody and go listen to that song. And that song is what kept my dream alive to do music. Listen to it, I realized there was no other music like it. It was what I wanted to hear, and I wasn't hearing anything like it. I'd never heard anything mixing those genres, mixing those styles together in that way.
I realized that I had created something special because it really spoke to my soul, and that's what kept my wheels turning when I was in that environment." (Here's our full interview with Matisyahu