Originally intended for Kante West's collaborative album Watch the Throne with Jay-Z, "Monster" appeared on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy instead and was released as the album's third single.
The song features rappers Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross and all four performers take on their haters in their rhymes. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is another guest artist and he opens and closes the track.
Vernon also collaborated with West on the track "Lost in the World" from the Chicago MC's Dark Twisted Fantasy
album. He discussed working with West in an interview with Pitchfork
: "I think he's very aware of the person he is, and I applaud him for that," said the singer. "It takes a lot of strength just to stay how he is amongst all the sh-- that he's subjected to. But I found him extremely like a bro. You could talk to him about whatever."
Ross told MTV News that he wasn't slated to be on the song in the first place. "I wasn't originally supposed to be on the record. I was next door working on another Kanye collaboration," the Miami MC said. "I walked in, like, 'This is so big.' [Kanye] was like, 'Yeah.' He was playing the track, spitting his verse for me. That's before he even laid it. I'm like, 'That's dangerous.' At the same time, me being a hustler, I'm thinking of just an intro for the record. He told me the structure and the way he wanted it to go. I told him that was it. That's the way I would do it. He was on point with it. Me being the artist I am, I was sitting there talking to him and came up with an intro bridge. It wasn't a verse at all. It was just an intro or somewhat of a bridge to set the tone for 'Ye to come in. Jay capped it off."
Ross told MTV News he was impressed with the way Minaj constructed her verse and then laid it down herself: "I was actually in the studio with Kanye in Hawaii when he played the concept for me," he recalled. "I was blown away. I had the opportunity to sit in the studio while Nicki wrote her verse just off the record. That was when she earned my respect as a lyricist. She was a dope entertainer up until that day that I sat in the studio and watched her come up with what I feel is one of the dopest verses of the year."
Minaj told MTV News that when she heard the track prior to coming up with her verse, West and Jay's contributions weren't already on it. This was helpful as the absence of the star MCs enabled the young female rapper to keep up her screwball energy. "No one's verse was on the song yet," she said. "I had just an open playing field, and I could do whatever I wanted to do. Had I heard Kanye and Jay, I would have punked out. I wouldn't turn it down but I think I would have limited my creativity."
The controversial Jake Nava directed video, which features an onslaught of depraved scenes, upset feminist groups who organised a petition claiming that the clip perpetuates violence against women and glamorizes misogyny.
Did you catch the Napoleon Dynamite reference in the lyrics? "What you gon' do now? Whatever I wanna do, gosh!" This is something Napoleon says early in the 2004 film.
During his time with Kanye West, Justin Vernon found himself working 18-hour days laying down vocal tracks and engineering a few recordings, such as Rick Ross' verse on this song. He recalled to Spin magazine: "Rick Ross would just be sitting there a lot of the time while I was working on s--t, on a piano bench right behind me, smoking blunt after blunt after blunt. In between takes, he'd inhale and then say real quiet, 'That was good, homie.' I'd be like, 'Okay! I'll keep going!'"
West admitted to MTV News' Sway that Minaj's verse was so good, he almost cut it out of pride.
Minaj told Rolling Stone about the inspiration for her verse. "He (Kanye West) said, 'What do you really wanna say?' So instead of writing a rap, I wrote pages and pages of like, 'I'm sick of people talking about this, tired of people saying I'm that' - ranting in a notebook, basically. Then I read it back, highlighted major things and put it in rap form."
The song returned to the iTunes chart in January 2016 after Adele rapped Nicki Minaj's verse from the hit during an appearance on
James Corden's Carpool Karaoke.
Speaking about the process behind the song's conception on her Instagram, Nicki Minaj revealed the track was nearly left off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
"Kanye called me to tell me Jay put a verse on this song and that he was still deciding if he would put it on his album," Minaj wrote. "It was like an hour-long call where I tried to convince him to let the song stay on his album. He felt this verse would end up being the talk of the album. I said: 'YOU'RE KANYE WEST!!!!'"
Minaj added: "I fought u every step of the way but it worked out. (He wanted me to add more of that growling monster voice and I felt it was over kill.) He wouldn't give in. In the end, maybe he was right. Ha!"