Every night on the tour to support their 2000 album Return of Saturn, No Doubt would throw aftershow parties where people would dance to Jamaican dancehall music. During a discussion over dinner in late-2000, the band members decided they wanted to explore dancehall-style rhythms for their next album. Drawing inspiration from artists such as Bounty Killer, Cutty Ranks, and Mr. Vegas, the band began work on the album in January 2001 by creating beats on Pro Tools at guitarist Tom Dumont's apartment. The group often tried recreating beats from other song files on the computer, which resulted in modified versions of the original rhythms. It worked with producer Philip Steir at Toast Studios in San Francisco during this time, where the beginnings of "Hey Baby" emerged. When writing lyrics for previous albums, Stefani typically read works by Sylvia Plath that would make her depressed "or find different words that inspire me." In contrast, for Rock Steady she wrote the lyrics quicker and on the spot to meet the goal of writing a song a day. Many of the demos recorded during these early sessions were used in the final tracks, rather than completely reworking the songs. The band saw this as a way to preserve the "initial spark" from when the songs were conceived.
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