Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift: A timeline of the drama, which now includes Kim Kardashian West
Kim Kardashian’s hard-core video attack on Taylor Swift on Sunday, while full of drama, wasn’t born in a vacuum. That master stroke was more than seven years in the making, in a saga started by Kanye West steamrolling Swift at an awards show in 2009.
These three can’t seem to let it go, so why should we? Here’s a timeline of the feud between Ms. Swift and Mr. West, with an assist from Ms. Kardashian West and a cameo by President Obama.
Because Yeezy and TSwift are Just. That. Important.
Sept. 13, 2009: In the beginning, there was drama
It was the day of MTV’s Video Music Awards in 2009. West drank a half a bottle of Hennessy, he’s said. Beyonce did not win the female video award for “Single Ladies.” Taylor Swift did win, for “You Belong to Me.” West was not pleased, but when Swift’s name was announced — it was only her second VMA nomination and the first of six Moonman wins total as of 2015 — he took it up a notch.
Then only 19 years old and accepting her first Moonman trophy, Swift was interrupted when West stormed the stage, took over the microphone and went on a tear about how Beyonce had gotten screwed.
"Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish,” he said, “but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!" He was met by a wave of boos and flipped off the audience as he belatedly returned to his seat.
Oh yeah, Beyonce did take home the bigger award, for video of the year, a category in which she was competing against West, and for which Taylor was not even nominated. As she accepted her award, Queen Bey invited TSwift back on stage as she accepted the honor — and she let Swift finish.
"Maybe we can try this again," Swift said, drawing a laugh. She proceeded to thank the people who helped her on her award-winning video effort.
Later on Sept. 13: West launches his apology tour
West took to his blog after the show and promised to apologize to Swift in person the next day.
“I’m sooooo sorry to Taylor Swift and her fans and her mom,” he wrote (via MTV News), pretty much in all caps, but that’s too visually exhausting to see here. “I spoke to her mother right after and she said the same thing my mother would’ve said. She is very talented! I like the lyrics about being a cheerleader and she’s in the bleachers! I’m in the wrong for going on stage and taking away from her moment!
“Beyonce’s video was the best of this decade!!!! I’m sorry to my fans if I let you guys down!!!! I’m sorry to my friends at MTV,” he continued.
But it was one of those apologies that came with an explanation. And those explanations typically have the effect of completely undercutting the sincerity of the sorry.
“Welcome to the real world!!!!,” West said. “Everybody wanna booooo me but I’m a fan of real pop culture!!! No disrespect but we watchin’ the show at the crib right now cause ... well you know!!!! I’m still happy for Taylor!!!! Boooyaaawwww!!!! You are very very talented!!! I gave my awards to Outkast when they deserved it over me ... That’s what it is!!!!!!! I’m not crazy y’all, I’m just real. Sorry for that!!! I really feel bad for Taylor and I’m sincerely sorry!!! Much respect!!!!!”
Sept. 14, 2009: Kanye West tells Jay Leno he's ashamed of himself
On “The Tonight Show,” Kanye West took a too-long-for-TV pause to compose himself after Jay Leno asked him what his late mother — Donda West died in 2007 — would think of his VMAs outburst.
"Obviously, I deal with hurt, and so many celebrities, they never take the time off, and I never took the time off, really," West told Leno. "I've really never taken the time off. It's been music after music and tour after tour. And I'm just ashamed my hurt caused someone else hurt."
Sept. 16, 2009: President Obama calls West a jackass
We include this only because it’s a hoot on so many levels.
Sept. 4, 2010: West apologizes to Swift again, via Twitter
West unleashed a series of tweets over the course of a couple of hours, nearly a year after his original faux pas.
“When I woke up from the crazy nightmare I looked in the mirror and said GROW UP KANYE … I take responsibility for my actions,” he said in one. He said he had written a song for her, and added, “If she won’t take it then I’ll perform it for her.”
"With new found humility … who am I to run on stage? I would never ever again in a million years do that. Sorry to let you down," he said in another.
The tweets were eventually deleted.
Sept. 13, 2010: Swift and West at the MTV VMAs, Part 2
What a difference a year makes. First, a barefoot Swift performed the tune “Innocent.”
Her lyrics? Here are a few: "You’ll have new Septembers/ Every one of us has messed up too / Lost your balance on a tightrope/ It's never too late to get it back."
West closed the show with “Runaway.”
His lyrics? Um, here are some where he wasn’t calling himself a piece of you-know-what: "Yeah I always find somethin' wrong / You been puttin' up wit' my ... just way too long / I'm so gifted at findin' what I don't like the most / So I think it's time for us to have a toast."
Sept. 13, 2010: West swears off awards shows
On “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” West shared details of his self-imposed exile, which included time in Japan (to get away from paparazzi) and then Rome, then Hawaii.
"Just for your whole world to completely crash from a moment of sincerity, or alcohol, or whatever it is ... I feel like in some ways I'm a soldier of culture, and I realize that no one wants that to be my job, and I'll never go on stage again. I'm never sitting in an award show again. But will I feel convicted about things that really meant stuff to culture, that constantly get denied for years and years and years?
“I’m sorry, I will. I cannot lie about it in order to sell records.”
DeGeneres suggested that he never say never, because he’s “too important” to stay away from award shows.
May 3, 2011: West and Swift cross paths at the Met Gala
It’s all good. A low-five is exchanged.
June 6, 2013: West says maybe he wasn't sorry at all
Wait, maybe it’s not all good?
"I don’t have one regret," West said in an interview with the New York Times. "If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now."
That whole apology tour after interrupting Swift’s acceptance speech? That was him succumbing to peer pressure, he said.
May 2014: Kardashian and West get married
It was the day West said, “I do,” to his most loyal ally. She shows up again later in this saga, don’t worry.
Nov. 24, 2014: West seems maybe not so sorry?
At a release party for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” West discussed what he did after he said in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that President George W. Bush didn’t care about black people — a comment he said was misinterpreted.
"That's not exactly what I wanted to say, I was emotional. That was not exactly how I wanted to word it,” he said.
Taylor never came to my defense in any interview and rode the wave and rode it and rode it.
— Kanye West
“But I rode it. I rode it. Just as Taylor never came to my defense in any interview and rode the wave and rode it and rode it. That's the way that I rode the wave with the Bush comment. It's not about popular opinion."
Wait, did he just say she used what he did to get famous herself? Yeah, he kinda did.
Aug. 31, 2015: Swift presents MTV's Video Vanguard award to West
West and Swift were reunited onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards intentionally when she presented him with the big-deal Video Vanguard award. In his acceptance speech, he thanked her for being so gracious to him and pondered whether he would have done things differently in 2009 if he’d had a daughter at the time.
“You know how many times MTV ran that footage again?” he said. “'Cause it got them more ratings? You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award 'cause it got them more ratings? Listen to the kids, bro! I still don't understand awards shows. I don't understand how they get five people who worked their entire life ... sold records, sold concert tickets to come stand on the carpet and for the first time in they life be judged on the chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser! I don't understand it, bruh!”
He also announced he would run for president in 2020.
Sept. 4, 2015: West sends Swift flowers, which she shares on Instagram
Feb. 11, 2016: West releases 'The Life of Pablo'
“The Life of Pablo” includes “Famous.” And Taylor was not pleased by the lyric talking about her.
"I did not diss Taylor Swift and I’ve never dissed her…" West tweeted. "First thing is I’m an artist and as an artist I will express how I feel with no censorship." He also said his wife approved of what he said in the song.
Swift’s brother Austin Swift publicly discarded his Yeezy shoes in protest.
June 16, 2016: Kardashian West tells GQ that Swift knew; Swift says leave me alone
“She totally approved that,” an annoyed Kardashian West told GQ, talking about the “Famous” lyric. “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 ... for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved,” Kardashian West said. “What rapper would call a girl that he was rapping a line about to get approval?”
Taylor "totally gave the OK," Kardashian West continued. "Rick Rubin was there. So many respected people in the music business heard that [conversation] and knew. I mean, he's called me a bitch in his songs. That's just, like, what they say. I never once think, [gasping] ‘What a derogatory word! How dare he?’ Not in a million years. I don't know why she just, you know, flipped all of a sudden.… It was funny because [on the call with West, Swift] 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.”
She also say that there "maybe" was a letter to West from an attorney saying, "Don't ever let that footage out. Destroy it."
Swift promptly told Kardashian West to leave her alone already, in a statement admitting that she and West had talked once but maintaining that there’d been no mention of any planned name-calling.
Taylor cannot understand why Kanye West, and now Kim Kardashian, will not just leave her alone.
— Statement from Team Swift
“Taylor does not hold anything against Kim Kardashian, as she recognizes the pressure Kim must be under and that she is only repeating what she has been told by Kanye West," the statement said (via CNN). "However, that does not change the fact that much of what Kim is saying is incorrect. Kanye West and Taylor only spoke once on the phone … in January of 2016 and they have never spoken since. Taylor has never denied that conversation took place.”
The statement continued: "It was on that phone call that Kanye West also asked her to release the song on her Twitter account, which she declined to do. Kanye West never told Taylor he was going to use the term 'that b**ch' in referencing her. A song cannot be approved if it was never heard. Kanye West never played the song for Taylor Swift. Taylor heard it for the first time when everyone else did and was humiliated. Kim Kardashian's claim that Taylor and her team were aware [of the lyrics] is not true, and Taylor cannot understand why Kanye West, and now Kim Kardashian, will not just leave her alone."
June 27, 2016: Lena Dunham trashes Swift's treatment in West's 'Famous' video
“I know that there's a hipper or cooler reaction to have than the one I'm currently having,” Lena Dunham said of West’s “Famous” video, which includes a wax figure of Swift lying nude next to West, who has Kardashian West nude on his other side and various high-profile celebrities in similar states of sleep and undress. “But guess what? I don't have a hip cool reaction, because seeing a woman I love like Taylor Swift (… that one hurt to look at, I couldn't look), a woman I admire like Rihanna or Anna, reduced to a pair of waxy breasts made by some special effects guy in the Valley, it makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this and may not understand that grainy roving camera as the stuff of snuff films.”
July 2016: Kardashian West talks about why she slammed Swift to GQ
In a promotional clip for the July 17, 2016, episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” Kardashian West talked to sister Kourtney Kardashian about what she told GQ and why she did it.
“I just felt like I wanted to defend him …,” said Kardashian West. By saying she hadn’t known about the lyric, Swift had found “another way to play the victim,” she continued. “It definitely got her a lot of attention the first time.” West shouldn't be punished for the VMAs incident "still, to this day,” she said.
Kardashian West said she just didn't care anymore, and would "do whatever" to protect her husband, because enough already. The incident at the 2009 VMAs hadn’t been a personal attack on Swift.
"We all know that 'Single Ladies' was the biggest song of the year. …,” Kardashian West said. “I'm just speaking the truth."
July 17, 2016: Kardashian West posts video of West talking to Swift
After that "KUWTK" episode aired, Kardashian West teased on Twitter to her Snapchat account, where she'd posted heavily edited video of West calling Swift and discussing the "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex" lyric.
In it, Swift appeared happy about being consulted and said she’d be happy to tell interviewers that she knew about the song in advance. "'Joke's on you,'" she said she'd tell anyone who asked. "'We're friends.'"
Based on Swift’s follow-up statement, nobody’s anybody’s friend anymore.
That moment when Kanye West secretly records your phone call, then Kim posts it on the Internet.
— Taylor Swift on Instagram
"Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me 'that bitch' in his song? It doesn't exist because it never happened," Swift said in a statement that night.
"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,” she continued.
"Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never 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."
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3:45 p.m.: A previous version of this article misstated the date that Kardashian West posted video of West talking to Swift. It was July 17, not June 17.
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