Taylor Swift rarely sits down for chats with members of the press these days. But her new album, Lover, is changing that. EW was fortunate to get one of those interviews, and the next big sit-down comes from Rolling Stone. During the conversation, published Wednesday morning, the “ME!” singer opened up about the long-gestating tension between her and rapper Kanye West, as well as the now-infamous phone call they shared.
“The world didn’t understand the context and the events that led up to it. Because nothing ever just happens like that without some lead-up,” Swift says of that call.
Swift and West’s volatile relationship dates back to the 2009 VMAs, when West stormed the stage during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video and yelled, “I’m really happy for you. I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”
“I started to feel like we reconnected, which felt great for me — because all I ever wanted my whole career after that thing happened in 2009 was for him to respect me,” Swift explains. “When someone doesn’t respect you so loudly and says you literally don’t deserve to be here — I just so badly wanted that respect from him, and I hate that about myself, that I was like, ‘This guy who’s antagonizing me, I just want his approval.’ But that’s where I was.”
The 29-year-old noted how they would “go to dinner and stuff” and West would “say really nice things” about her music. Then the 2015 VMAs happened.
“He’s getting the Vanguard Award. He called me up beforehand — I didn’t illegally record it, so I can’t play it for you,” she says, in reference to how West’s wife Kim Kardashian would later share alleged audio of the phone call between Swift and West on social media.
“But he called me up, maybe a week or so before the event, and we had maybe over an hourlong conversation, and he’s like, ‘I really, really would like for you to present this Vanguard Award to me, this would mean so much to me,’ and went into all the reasons why it means so much, because he can be so sweet,” Swift continues. “He can be the sweetest. And I was so stoked that he asked me that.”
After Swift delivered her speech at the VMAs, West accepted the award and said, “You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award ’cause it got them more ratings?”
“I’m standing in the audience with my arm around his wife, and this chill ran through my body,” Swift recalls. “I realized he is so two-faced. That he wants to be nice to me behind the scenes, but then he wants to look cool, get up in front of everyone and talk shit. And I was so upset.”
Swift says she tried moving past this as West later sent her flowers to apologize, but then the phone call in question came about — the one where West called about his song “Famous,” seemingly to get permission to reference Swift. The lyrics read, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b— famous.” West claims he received permission from Swift, but she denies it. Kardashian then posted audio of the phone call on social media during this thick of things that appeared to support West’s claim.
Speaking to this phone call, Swift says, “When he gets on the phone with me, and I was so touched that he would be respectful and, like, tell me about this one line in the song… And I was like, ‘Okay, good. We’re back on good terms.’ And then when I heard the song, I was like, ‘I’m done with this. If you want to be on bad terms, let’s be on bad terms, but just be real about it.'”
Swift, who released her Lover album in August, recently announced a two-stop U.S. concert tour, Lover Fest, first in Los Angeles and then in Massachusetts. She’ll also appear as a Mega Mentor on The Voice season 17.