Most everyone rolled their eyes when Justin Vernon busted out Auto-Tune for his Blood Bank EP’s a capella closer “Woods.” Little did they know that, three years later, this unassuming track would be the centerpiece of one of the more sprawling hip-hop tracks of 2010. “Lost in the World” begins with the unadorned opening bars of “Woods,” leaving us to contemplate just what kind of beat Kanye has cooked up to complement Vernon’s delicate vocals. The answer comes about a minute in, and Kanye’s gift for synthesizing songs out of other songs is immediately apparent. He completely re-imagines “Woods” as a tribal club-banger with a syncopated house beat and vague moral agenda courtesy of Gil Scott Heron soundbytes. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

Kanye West (Feat. Justin Vernon)

“Lost in the World”
Roc-A-Fella

Just in sheer novelty, the song succeeds. Kanye spits a brief nonsense verse, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s the song’s vibe that does the heavy lifting — unrelenting, ecclesiastic Vernon hooks, Afrobeat breakdowns and the fact that there’s like 20 vocal tracks at any given time make the track something loftier than just a clever use of a sample. Kanye takes ’em to church.

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