The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s first public meeting is infamous. The two came into contact on the stage of the 2009 MTV VMAs as Swift accepted the award for Best Female Video for her single “You Belong with Me.” In a frequently quoted speech, West told the singer, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!” Bey was nominated in the category for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
An Apology and an Acceptance
Following the backlash from the VMA incident, Swift revealed that West had contacted her to apologize. “Kanye did call me and he was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology,” she said in an interview with ABC Radio.
Swift Releases 'Innocent'
While Swift seemed to accept West’s apology, the back-and-forth didn’t end there. In September 2010, the singer dropped “Innocent,” a track that took inspiration from her interaction with West. “I think a lot of people expected me to write a song about him,” Swift said of West in an October 2010 interview with New York Magazine. “But for me it was important to write a song to him.” Said song included such lyrics as “I guess you really did it this time / Left yourself in your warpath / Lost your balance on a tightrope / Lost your mind trying to get it back,” and “It’s okay, life is a tough crowd / 32, and still growing up now.”
West Rescinds His Apology
A few years after the release of “Innocent,” West addressed the feud once more. Speaking to the New York Times, he touched on his instincts and desire to tell his truth, saying these things “only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.” When asked about the VMAs, and if he had regrets about the past, West said, “I don’t have one regret… If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.” When pressed about the fact that he previously apologized for his actions at the VMAs, West explained that he apologized because of peer pressure and added, “Yeah, I think that I have like, faltered, you know, as a human. My message isn’t perfectly defined. I have, as a human being, fallen to peer pressure.”
A 2015 Grammys Reunion
Two years after his NYT interview, Swift reunited with West at the 2015 Grammy Awards. The musicians appeared to be on good terms, smiling as they posed for photos together and with West’s wife, Kim Kardashian.
The Presenting of the Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 VMAs
West won the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, and when the time came for the honor to be presented, Swift, who led the night with the most total awards and nominations, stepped up to the plate. The singer celebrated West’s College Dropout album, heralded his work in fashion, and added, “I have been a fan of his for as long as I can remember because Kanye defines what it is to be a creative force in music, fashion, and, well, life.”
West Sends Swift Flowers
A few days after the VMAs, Swift took to Instagram to share a photo of an oversized bouquet of flowers she received from West. “Awwww Kanye sent me the coolest flowers!! #KanTay2020 #BFFs,” she captioned the shot.
West Drops 'Famous'
West added to his discography in February 2016, dropping his seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo. The collection was led by the single “Famous,” which includes the line, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous (God damn) / I made that bitch famous.”
Swift’s 2016 Grammys Speech
Swift found a huge platform for her response to West’s “Famous” lyric: the stage at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Accepting the Album of the Year award for 1989, Swift said, “As the first woman to win album of the year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there: there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you’ll know it was you and the people who love you who put you there and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”
West's 'Famous' Music Video
Lest West leave any doubt that he was taking shots at Swift in “Famous,” the rapper included the singer’s imagery in the song’s corresponding music video. Swift was depicted asleep in a bed in a line of famous faces, which included West himself, his wife Kim Kardashian, George W. Bush, Rihanna, Caitlyn Jenner, and Donald Trump, among others.
Kim Kardashian Alleges Swift Knew About the 'Famous' Lyric
While Swift maintained that she had no prior knowledge of the exact lyrics to the song, Kardashian said otherwise in a June 2016 interview with GQ. “She totally approved that,” Kardashian said of the line. “She totally knew that that was coming out. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn’t. I swear, my husband gets so much s–t for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved. What rapper would call a girl that he was rapping a line about to get approval?”
Kardashian Releases Audio of West and Swift's Phonecall
Kardashian teased in her GQ interview that she had a recording of Swift giving West her blessing to release the song. “Rick Rubin was there. So many respected people in the music business heard that [conversation] and knew,” she told GQ of the call. “It was funny because [on the call with Kanye, Taylor] said, ‘When I get on the Grammy red carpet, all the media is going to think that I’m so against this, and I’ll just laugh and say, ‘The joke’s on you, guys. I was in on it the whole time.’ And I’m like, wait, but [in] your Grammy speech, you completely dissed my husband just to play the victim again.” As to whether they had spoken since, Kardashian added, “No. Maybe an attorney’s letter she sent saying, ‘Don’t ever let that footage come out of me saying that. Destroy it.’ …They sent an attorney’s letter like, ‘Don’t you dare do anything with that footage,’ and asking us to destroy it. When you shoot something, you don’t stop every two seconds and be like, ‘Oh wait, we’re shooting this for my documentary.’ You just film everything, and whatever makes the edit, then you see, then you send out releases. It’s like what we do for our show.”
The audio in question made its way online about a month later. After telling her Twitter followers to follow her on Snapchat, and tying in the moment to an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kardashian posted the audio of the call to her Snapchat. “Yeah, I mean, what’s dope about the line is it’s very tongue in cheek either way. And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that’s really nice,” Swift can be heard saying in the video. “For you to ask me if I’d be okay with it, I really appreciate it. I’d never expect you to tell me about a line in your song.”
Swift Responds to the Snapchat of the Call
Swift took to Twitter after Kardashian released the audio, making a statement through a screenshot of words written in the Notes app of her iPhone. “Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that bitch’ in his song?” she wrote. “It doesn’t exist because it never happened. You don’t get to control someone’s emotional response to being called ‘that bitch’ in front of the entire world. Of course I wanted to like the song. I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. he promised to play the song for me, but he never did. While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ a song you haven;t heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”