Holy shit. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver/Gayngs frontperson Justin Vernon on this track. To be honest, I was made cautiously optimistic about Kanye’s upcoming straight hip-hop record by the last track Kanye let into the internet, “See Me Now” featuring Beyonce & Charlie Wilson. As Kanye himself proclaimed at the end of that track, it was indeed “the Yeezy [we] all kn[e]w and love[d]”, a truly refreshing turn from, well, everything he’s released since he put on the shutter shades. For the sake of full disclosure, I was a big fan of Kanye’s first two records but haven’t loved anything he’s released since, and when I heard “See Me Now” for the first time, I really did feel like it was possible he could release an album as great as those first two in 2010. Now that I’ve heard Monster, I’m fucking sure of it.
While “See Me Now” had production that was reminiscent of Kanye’s earlier material, “Monster” isn’t really reminiscent of anything. It’s one of the most original sounding beats I’ve heard from a mainstream hip hop artist in years. There are maybe traces of the kind of synth sounds off of 808s & Heartbreak, but the drums are heavy and surrounding, a mixture of live and electronic beats. And the beat brings out the best of every rapper on it – and there’s some impressive talent on the roster. Kanye’s own verse is rock solid, continuing to raise his own lyrical bar towards where it used to rest. Rick Ross has a short intro verse, but it’s tight for as long as it lasts. Jay-Z once again is able to put out a likable verse, as long as its not on one of his own albums, and the Bon Iver vocals sandwiching the track definitely add another element of depth to the track. But it’s Nicki Minaj who kills it, absolutely tears the track apart. Watch the fuck out for Nicki Minaj, and don’t miss downloading “Monster” below, if solely to hear this chick on fire. Her upcoming LP Pink Friday may be my second most anticipated rap album of the fall.