Right before the start of 2020, entertainment media outlets all over the country pumped out end-of-the-year lists that highlighted the best albums from the last decade. To no surprise, Kanye West’s Grammy Award-winning My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was rightfully a part of every discussion. To this day, people still rave about the masterful 13-song effort. How could you not after hearing a musical genius pour his visionary thoughts out on wax? But the mind of a mad scientist goes through different stages just like this album.
Back in 2010, an early version of the project was sent to legendary director Hype Williams, who was supposed to provide visuals for the effort. The zip file remained locked for a long time. However, this past summer, a group of people who double as both hackers and die-hard Kanye fans finally cracked the code (the password was “wewantmoney”) and received access to one of the most valuable Yeezy leaks ever.
After listening to what was and what became of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, there are a lot of major differences, but we’ll get to those in a second. On the smaller side, tracks like “Chain Heavy,” which was initially supposed to be housed on the album, became a G.O.O.D. Friday release instead. Two interludes, “Holding Me Back” and the Mos Def-assisted “Sweat On My Face,” got cut. And the album title changed from Donda’s Boy to what we know it as today.
Now, back on the heavier side of things. As the 10th anniversary of the album approaches (Nov. 22), XXL saw it fit to spotlight and add explanation to some notable changes that include adding features, swapping verses, beat enhancements and everything in between. Peep them below and hear what the initial 16-track iteration of a modern-day rap classic sounded like in its days of being cooked up.
"Dark Fantasy" Intro Gets ReworkedKanye West Featuring Nicki Minaj, Teyana Taylor and Justin Vernon
The intro to a classic album has an important role in setting the tone. As a record that was previously offered to Drake and Jay-Z, “Dark Fantasy” proved Kanye's ability to execute in doing so. For both versions, Nicki Minaj, in a full English accent, gives a rewrapped narrative of Roald Dahl's Cinderella. But as you’ll notice from comparing the OG iteration to what became the final song, the monologue gets a worthwhile extension. Additionally, in the old reference, it sounds as if there's a double layer of Nicki's voice, and the chorus of the song isn’t heard until after ’Ye’s first verse. Eventually, it served as an angelic prelude to the “bring the ruckus”-type beat drop, brought to you by the legend RZA. On the song, the phrase “Can we get much higher?,” sung by Teyana Taylor, not only set the tone for the rest of the track, but for the entire project by declaring an imaginative ascension into the depths of Yeezy's musical mind.
John Legend and Chris Rock Are Recruited for "Blame Game"Kanye West Featuring John Legend
The original version of “Blame Game” enacts a much heavier feeling of distress upon listening. On the song, Kanye West croons over the chorus himself, prior to drafting John Legend and his gentle vocals to take over hook duty. This track feels hesitant and unfinished, which works to the advantage of the song, but it still thrives in its whole form. On the final, there are a few little lyrical changes in the verses, but most notably there’s a difference in vocal effects. For example, in ’Ye’s second verse, there’s a distorted conscious-like voice that creates the ad-libs and doubles back in the third verse for a back-and-forth trade-off. The presence of Auto-Tune adds more life to the foundation as well, as it was quieter in the first go ’round. Lastly, we almost got this gem of a song without one of the best guest rap interludes of all time, credited to Chris Rock’s voicemail that ends with the profession from a woman that Yeezy "taught me."
Rihanna Snags a Major Feature on "All of the Lights"Kanye West Featuring Rihanna and Kid Cudi
Kanye West has always tapped into other musical geniuses to create some of rap’s most premier collaborations. During his album recording sessions in Hawaii, he scouted fourteen artists to add vocals onto a song that took nearly two years to complete. Among those artists were Drake, Fergie, La Roux, Charlie Wilson, Kid Cudi and Rihanna, who sent her vocals in from Cali, among many more. After not being included prior, Rih ended up taking more of a lead role on the final product and added a strong emphasis to the already cinematic feel of the track. It worked. “All of the Lights," originally titled "Ghetto University," went on to become one of the best songs of 2011, and got three Grammy nominations for Best Rap Song, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Song of the Year at the 2012 Grammy Awards. The platinum-selling song took home two out of three of those awards, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song. But as you can hear, the credit has to be split nearly 15 ways when you give a nod to this hit.
A Jay-Z Verse Replaces Kanye's Second Verse on "Monster" Kanye West Featuring Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Jay-Z and Bon Iver
Once ’Ye secured that Nicki Minaj verse on "Monster," the song was an instant classic. However, another superstar wasn’t on the song at first. Instead of including a second verse from Kanye, which is on the original, the final track houses a fresh one by Jay-Z. Another thing you’ll hear is some more notable bar swaps. Eliminated from that secondary Kanye verse are lyrics that ended up being used on “Dark Fantasy," and some never-heard-before rhymes that have yet to find a home. Another smaller change on this track comes on Nicki’s verse. She went back and punched in a set of bars that begin with, “But really, really I don't give an F-U-C-K /Forget Barbie, fuck Nicki, sh-she's fake." Whereas her verse prematurely ended with the “Pink wig, thick ass, give ’em whiplash” declaration beforehand.
Hov Has a Verse on "So Appalled"Kanye West Featuring Jay-Z, Pusha-T, Swizz Beatz, RZA and CyHi
“Monster” wasn’t the only song Jay-Z was late to the party on. For the album’s seventh song, “So Appalled,” Jigga secured another placement and dropped off his better verse featured on MBDTF. Another inclusion you’ll notice after bumping the two tracks is the added Swizz Beatz refrain at the top of the record. It goes, “One hand in the air if you don't really care/Two hands in the air if you don't really care/It's like that sometimes, I mean ridiculous/It's like that sometimes, this shit ridiculous,” twice, as it was nonexistent before. Finally, in another small yet obvious example, RZA’s vocals are extended. On the OG version, he follows CyHi’s verse by repeating the chorus once. But in the final iteration, he contributes a bit more, more so with his energy. RZA delivers the words “fuckin’ ridiculous” again and again with a grit level that can transplant anyone to the streets of Staten Island in the 1990s.
"Lost in the World" Gets Scaled DownKanye West Featuring Justin Vernon and Gil Scott-Heron
The early creation of “Lost in the World” seemed like an interlude rather than an actual full-length song. Off rip, it was a lot more stripped down and melancholy than what it would become. On the new version, the chilling intro is shortened. Prior, it assisted in slowing down the pace before the beat revved up, but on the final track, the beat drop happens much quicker. There’s also no verse in the older version. Instead, ’Ye and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon use the time to harmonize their signature voices and craft the backbone of the enchanting song over a slew of deep piano chords. That backbone was eventually built upon heavily with tons of choir singing and instruments. Also, at the end of the OG version is a sample of Gil Scott-Heron's "Comment No. 1.” That poem was scrapped from this song and presented on its own as the album’s outro “Who Will Survive In America.”
Raekwon Secures a Feature on "Gorgeous"Kanye West Featuring Kid Cudi and Raekwon
The features on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album deserve an article of their own. ’Ye was impressively able to get the best out of everyone who made an appearance on the LP from newfound legends at the time like Nicki Minaj or seasoned ones like The Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon. On the final version of "Gorgeous," The Chef takes care of the epilogue and stabs in a highly skillful verse that touches on his grungy days before he became a big-time rapper. With his appearance, he adds another layer of depth to one of the project’s most striking records. The addition of the verse from the rapper formerly known as Sha Raider, which strategically sounds like it was phoned in, is the only difference between the two tracks, but a special one nonetheless.
Rick Ross and Mike Dean's Guitar Solo Are Included on "Devil in a New Dress"Kanye West Featuring Rick Ross
Let's address this right out the gates: Rick Ross’ verse on “Devil in a New Dress” is so iconic that it got a video of its own. So is Mike Dean’s legendary guitar solo, which makes the perfect soundtrack for that meme where Tom's soul ( from Tom and Jerry) leaves his body and elevates into heaven. What’s crazy though is that while being the most popular and recognizable components of the track, these two peak moments didn’t exist at one point. In the prototype, ’Ye is the only one of the track, mumbling bars that he had yet to finish at the time. Still, you could tell that he was in the midst of creating something amazing. And with the help of two seasoned music vets, the word amazing could be argued against for being an understated adjective.
"That's My Bitch" and "The Joy" Are Released Outside of MBDTFKanye West and Jay-Z
Both the songs "That's My Bitch" and "The Joy" were initially part of the MBDTF creative process. On "The Joy," the combination of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Curtis Mayfield and Pete Rock had a 100 percent success rate of being astounding. Their track contains everything an OG hip-hop head would love and gravitate towards, from the double-take bars to the soul sample to the jukebox kind of beat. With the exclusion of Jigga's verse, the deep cut was initially planted toward the end of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it ended up getting scrapped and saved for the deluxe edition of Watch The Throne. Similarly, the OG MBDTF track called "That's My Bitch" became a part of that album, too. Either way, the songs were rightfully placed on a transcendent rap album. But considering the quality, picturing them on this Kanye classic seems much wilder.