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Intro

"Judge not, lest ye be judged."

So goes the credo expressed with calm and forethought in the third single released from Kanye West's critically acclaimed 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a probing exploration of a new morality for a broken world.

Just kidding.

"Monster," West's ambitious posse track featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj, might be vaguely about morality, but the song's confounding takeaway message is more a rebuke of moral questions than an exploration. Even more noticeably, it is the angry, sardonic output of someone who resents feeling judged—resulting in a great-sounding song loaded heavy with judgment. But even if you feel a little attacked, "Monster" features a consuming beat that is difficult to say no to. You might resist at first (especially when Jay-Z starts whining about how hard it is to be rich and powerful), but then along comes Nicki Minaj with a series of mind-destroying rhymes that roll out like a clown car full of countless bad clowns, coming to get you. It's through Minaj's genius—and not his own, at least not this time—that Kanye West gets his dark, twisted point across.

About the Song

ArtistKanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver Musician(s)Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Justin Vernon (vocals), Jeff Bhasker (keyboard, piano), Mike Dean (keyboard, piano, cello, arrangements), Benjamin Bronfman (arrangements
AlbumMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Year2010
LabelRoc-A-Fella
Writer(s)Kanye West, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), Patrick Reynolds, Mike Dean, William Roberts, Nicki Minaj (Onika Maraj), Justin Vernon, Jeff Bhasker
Producer(s)Kanye West, Mike Dean, Plain Pat
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Since the days of Beowulf, battles against monsters have been a persistent theme in Western literature. The idea of representing the human self as a despised and disgusting monster dates back to the earliest written history—remember those Greek mythological man-monsters, like the Cyclops?

Given all the finely crafted, metaphorical modern work in this department (take Kafka's Metamorphosis, for example, where the protagonist transforms into a giant bug and his own parents try to murder him), West's entry into the monstrosity genre can be awkwardly straightforward. He paints himself as a monster by saying, um, "I'm a mothafuckin monster"; Jay-Z goes on to list off the names of several famous monsters (Loch Ness, King Kong, and so on) and then compare himself to them.  Not exactly poetic, is it?

For purposes of shock and awe, "Monster" still manages to blow contemporary pop contenders like Lady Gaga out of the water. And, of course, we won't be the first to say that much of the track's shock and awe comes straight from the jaws of Nicki Minaj, whose version of monstrosity is almost indigestibly interesting. According to Nicki's analysis, the real monster is not Kanye West or Jay-Z, but the beast of fame itself.

On the Charts

"Monster" peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in November 2010. It peaked at #30 on Billboard's Hip-hop/R&B chart and #15 on the Rap chart.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released in full on November 23, 2010, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The album was also a #1 hit in Canada, and was certified Platinum in the U.S. as of January 2011.
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