S.S.T. was first available as a download on the NPG Music Club within 24 hours of its recording in response to Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans, LA, USA. Two days later, the song was offered as a download bundle with Brand New Orleans and Mavis Staples' You Will Be Moved. Eight weeks later, a CD single of S.S.T. was released.
Basic tracking took place on 2 September 2005 at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, MN, as Prince watched footage of Hurricane Katrina's effects on the city of New Orleans while listening to Sade's The Sweetest Taboo (from the 1985 album Promise, also released as a single), which became the acronym used for the song's title ("Sade's Sweetest Taboo").
"S.S.T." is also an acronym for "sea surface temperature", which can be used in forecasting hurricanes. Brand New Orleans, which is based around the final instrumental section of S.S.T., was recorded at the same session.