Behind The Mic: The story behind Jay-Z’s hit ‘PSA’
(Credit: Wikimedia/Hip Hop Hero)


Behind The Mic: The story behind Jay-Z's hit 'PSA'

Jay-Z is the second wealthiest man in hip hop, and since 1995, Hov has been bringing us quality music. From ‘PSA’ to ‘On To The Next One’, the Brooklyn rapper has been around since the days of Big Daddy Kane and Biggie. However, although the Roc-a-Fella mogul has made a lot of songs, we rarely get to see how he made these songs. Exploring how the rapper produces these songs is fascinating, and even the tiniest look into his creative process is revealing.

As listeners and fans of Hov, we only get to hear what he wants. Although there’s footage of Jay working on The Black Album floating around the internet, sometimes it is not enough. Seeing Jay’s reaction to the beat for ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ is priceless, and watching him write lyrics for ‘Allure’ in his head with Pharrell is impressive.

Sometimes we need to dig even deeper. For fans, it is fascinating to see how a concept or small idea can lead to a song of legendary status. In this article, we’ll be looking Behind the Mic to discover the story behind Jay-Z’s 2003 hit ‘Public Service Announcement’ and bring you secrets no one else knows about on how this classic was made.

‘Public Service Announce’, often stylised as (PSA), was produced by Just Blaze and samples the well-known song, ‘Seed of Love’ by Little Boy Blues. In an interview with Revolt, Just Blaze revealed that, while at Battery Studios in New York, he “made the PSA beat in [his] headphones while the engineer was mixing another record [they] were working on” and that he “made the beat in like ten minutes”.

He proceeded to show Jay-Z the next day while he was holding listening sessions for various news outlets and revealed that Jay-Z recorded the song in between interviews and press runs, disclosing, “In between the press run he would come in drop four bars, go do another press run, come back in drop four bars go do another press run.” 

The producer explained, “as he was doing the press, he was thinking about the beat in the back of his mind, coming up with the song. In between press runs, he laid it all, and by the end of the night, he was like ‘Nah’, and walked out. The next day he spat the whole thing over in one take.” Concerning the album’s make-up, Jay-Z added ‘PSA’ at the expense of another track as he told the label, “add that to the album and take ‘Looking At My S Dots’ off”. ‘PSA’ essentially replaced another album cut.

‘PSA’ quickly became a fan favourite and is considered by many to be one of the best songs of The Black Album, regardless of the fact that it is not even an official single. The Black Album was released in 2003 and went straight to number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart and is certified triple platinum. The Black Album has tracks produced by all the hip hop greats, including DJ Premier, Kanye West, The Neptunes, Timbaland and, of course, Just Blaze.

Recorded across three different studios, Baseline in New York, The Hit Factory in Miami and Rick Rubin’s studio, The Mansion in Los Angeles The Black Album, is considered one of Jay-Z’s best bodies of work. You can see more about how The Black Album was made below and can watch more about the creation of ‘PSA’ below as well.