“QUESTION: what do these things all have in common?” is a phrase that I’ve spouted at inappropriate times for the better part of seven years. Jay-Z’s roll-call of spooky creatures on “Monster,” which preceded Nicki Minaj’s game-changing verse, is canon by now. But according to Minaj, there’s another reality in which we never heard either verse.
Earlier this week, celebrating “Monster”’s seventh anniversary, Minaj took to Instagram and revealed that Kanye came close to not including the Jay-Z-, Rick Ross-, Bon Iver-, and Minaj-featuring song on his opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “Kanye called me to tell me Jay put a verse on this song & that he was still deciding if he would put it on his album,” she wrote. “It was like an hour long call where I tried to convince him to let the song stay on his album.”
We probably would have still heard “Monster” either way—the posse cut was released as part of Kanye’s now-dormant GOOD Fridays single series in 2010. But the track probably wouldn’t have invaded the zeitgeist in the same way; Nicki would have found her way to stardom all the same, but “Monster” probably wouldn’t have become a party playlist fixture, or even shown up on streaming services at all. I’m guessing the Stranger Things kid wouldn’t have rapped Minaj’s verse on Fallon while covered in Silly String if it hadn’t appeared on Twisted Fantasy.
Perhaps more importantly, almost no one would remember the time when Jay-Z rhymed “Loch Ness” with “conscience.” Look, I’m not here to argue that Jay’s “Monster” verse is better than Nicki’s, but it’s definitely the one that’s provided the most meme currency in recent years.
For the holiday season, let’s revisit Jay’s seven monsters and rank them appropriately in order of spookiness.
7. Loch Ness
Uh, have you seen The Water Horse? I haven’t either, but it looks pretty tame. Definitely not spooky.
Not that spooky, but a little bit spooky. Some ghosts—Casper the Friendly Ghost, (spoiler alert) Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, and Kristen Stewart’s brother in Personal Shopper—are demonstrably friendly, but most ghosts are not.
Still, there’s something reassuring about ghosts—to think that you can linger around and bear witness to this hellhole of a planet after you’re gone, with none of the negative effects impacting your health. It’s kind of like, well, being alive and extremely rich!
5. King Kong
King Kong is only scary if you’re an asshole. Yes, he can rip apart a human body with ease—but you just have to show him a little empathy and not threaten to cage him up like a circus animal, as Jack Black’s character attempted in the 2005 movie, and he’ll basically leave you alone. Easy, right?
Sasquatch isn’t scarier than any other monster in Jay-Z’s “Monster” verse, but the mere mention of his name reminds me of those Jack Link’s Beef Jerky commercials, which are like if the Geico commercials tried to be edgy, and very dumb.
Not always outright evil, goblins are still manipulative as hell. The conniving little bastards, while sometimes of the flesh-eating variety, could kill you if they wanted to, but are often just content to win your trust and promptly shatter it. They’re usually small, maybe even small enough that they aren’t all that intimidating. Stay away!
Godzilla will indiscriminately fuck up an entire city, no thanks.
1. Zombie with no conscience
Run and hide. Rivaling “breastesses is my breakfast” for scariest late-career Jay-Z rhyme, “zombie with no conscience” arrives at the end of his monster round-up, and it’s a doozy. Jay may be fumbling with redundancy throughout much of the verse, but the fact that he includes the no conscience bit here really drives home that the undead feel no remorse as they tear your body to pieces.
The Walking Dead has reminded whoever still watches The Walking Dead time and again—a zombie with no conscience can even be an old family member. As Jay’s ex-pal once said: SCARY!