Study Guide

Monster

By Walter Dean Myers

Monster Introduction

In a Nutshell

"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's 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

ArtistWest, Kanye feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver
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
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
Learn to play
AlbumMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Music Video

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Influences on West, Kanye feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver

Nas
Erick Sermon
Jay-Z
Mase
A Tribe Called Quest
Wu Tang Clan

Influenced by West, Kanye feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver

Jason Derülo
Master Shortie
Manafest
J Xavier
Da Weasel
Kid Cudi
Naledge
Dux Jones

Monster Resources

Books

Donda West and Karen Hunter: Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar (2007)
The only West biographer we can vouch for at this time is his mom. And even that, we do with reservation.

Jay-Z: Decoded (2010)
Really, we were just looking for an excuse to plug Shawn Carter's beautifully designed and fascinating graphic autobiography. There's a reason why it's all the rage.

Albums

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
If you like "Monster," there's a lot more where that came from.

Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday (2010)
The album wasn't everything Minaj fans hoped for, and we'll admit to being underwhelmed ourselves, but it's an interesting study of Minaj's shifting public persona.

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
Bon Iver's independently released debut album somehow made it onto Kanye's playlist.

Images

Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Nicki Minaj
Nicki and Kanye teamed with Jay-Z in New York to perform the song in September 2010.

Justin Vernon and Kanye West
Performing live together. Apparently they've become great friends, too.

Movies & TV

"Runaway" Film
This epic 35-minute experiment, directed by West himself, gives even more depth and weirdness to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Still, nothing beats "Thriller."

Websites

Kanye West Official Site
As usual, get the latest news, touring, and album information.

"Monster" on Genius
This great website features explanatory pop-ups on every interesting line in this song (and hundreds of other songs, too).

Nicki Minaj Official Site
My Pink Friday makes the most of Minaj's quick rise to fame.

"Nicki Minaj Talks 'Monster' Verse, Drake Marriage, and Dating," Rap Up (2010)
Nicki Minaj gives up some good gossip in this long interview, starting with a discussion of her verses on "Monster."

Video & Audio

Kanye West, "Monster"
You'll need to track down the music video yourself, but here's the audio track.

Kanye West, "Dark Fantasy"
The first track on the album features an impressive introduction by Nicki Minaj, who is paraphrasing Roald Dahl's re-telling of Cinderella.

Nicki Minaj, "Your Love"
A taste of Pink Friday, Minaj's album released on the same day as West's. Minaj's performances don't always live up to her monstrous reputation. In this cheesy video, she wears a claw like Sasha Fierce and swoons over a guy.