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A Comprehensive Guide to the Kanye West-Taylor Swift-Kim Kardashian West Feud

14 minute read
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Sept. 13, 2009: Taylor Swift wins the Best Female Video award at the MTV Video Music Awards for her video, “You Belong With Me.” During her acceptance speech, Kanye West jumps on stage, grabs the mic and utters the now-infamous lines, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Beyoncé, the gracious goddess that she is, invites Swift up to the stage to finish her speech after winning Video of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” The American population is horrified by this moment, causing Swift’s now-frenemy Katy Perry to defend her with a tweet.

Sept. 14, 2009: West apologizes for his VMA behavior on The Jay Leno Show. The rapper showed remorse for his actions, saying, “It was rude, period. I don’t try to justify it, ’cause I was in the wrong. Dealing with the fact that I hurt someone or took anything away, you know, from a talented artist – or from anyone – because I only wanted to help people.”

Sept. 15, 2009: One day later, Swift appeared on The View, where she told the hosts that she never received an apology from West.

“My overall thought process was something like: ‘Wow, I can’t believe I won, this is awesome, don’t trip and fall, I’m gonna get to thank the fans, this is so cool. Oh, Kanye West is here. Cool haircut. What are you doing there?’ And then, ‘Ouch.’ And then, ‘I guess I’m not gonna get to thank the fans.'”

West called Swift later that day to apologize, which she publicly acknowledges that she accepted.

However, the most significant thing that happens on this momentous day is President Obama calling Kanye a “jackass” in an off-the-record moment during a CNBC interview when he was asked about the VMAs incident. Not even mutual Chicago love could save Yeezy from Obama’s critique.

Sept. 4, 2010: West sends another apology to Swift, publicly, via Twitter. Little does he, Wiz Khalifa, or anyone else for that matter, yet know that this will be one of his favorite and most publicly scrutinized ways of communicating with others in the future.

Sept. 12, 2010: Swift debuts a new song about West at the very place it all started: the MTV Video Music Awards. Just one year after the infamous event, Swift’s song, “Innocent,” was viewed as a backhanded reference to the ordeal, with lyrics that read, “Who you are is not what you did / You’re still an innocent…It’s OK, life is a tough crowd / 32 and still growing up now.” Hmmm.

Later that night, West performs “Runaway,” which many have interpreted as his response to how the media treated him in the aftermath of his interaction with Swift at the VMAs, which seems fitting given the lyrics, “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags / Let’s have a toast for the assholes.”

Oct. 19, 2010: A penitent, contrite West continues his peacemaking when he tells Ellen DeGeneres on her show that the fiasco was caused by a combination of “sincerity and alcohol.”

June 11, 2013: In an interview with The New York Times, West reveals that he doesn’t regret the way he behaved at the 2009 VMAs, even going so far as to say that he apologized because of “peer pressure.”

“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.”

Feb. 8, 2015: West and Swift ignite a media storm when they are photographed talking and hanging out at the Grammy Awards.

Feb. 11, 2015: In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, West revealed that the two musical superstars were planning to collaborate.

“She wants to get in the studio and we’re definitely going to go in,” he said. “Any artist with an amazing point of view, perspective, fanbase, I’m down to get in the studio and work. I don’t discriminate.”

West also revealed that Swift told him that he should have gone on stage at the 2015 Grammys when Beck won Album of the Year over Beyoncé, which he actually did in jest, crashing the stage briefly.

Feb. 18, 2015: No bad blood here! The pair were spotted having dinner together at West’s favorite restaurant in NYC, The Spotted Pig.

Aug. 11, 2015: Swift addresses her newfound friendship with West during her cover interview with Vanity Fair.

“I feel like I wasn’t ready to be friends with him until I felt like he had some sort of respect for me, and he wasn’t ready to be friends with me until he had some sort of respect for me — so it was the same issue, and we both reached the same place at the same time,” she said. “And then Kanye and I both reached a place where he would say really nice things about my music and what I’ve accomplished, and I could ask him how his kid [North is] doing. … We haven’t planned [a collaboration] … But hey, I like him as a person. And that’s a really good, nice first step, a nice place for us to be.”

Aug. 30, 2015: Six years after the initial fiasco, Swift presents West with the Video Vanguard Award at the MTV VMAs and even humorously invokes the original incident in her speech.

“I first met Kanye West six years ago — at this show, actually!” she said, noting that West’s freshman album, The College Dropout, was “the very first album my brother and I bought on iTunes when I was 12 years old…I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember because Kanye defines what it means to be a creative force in music, fashion and, well, life. So, I guess I have to say to all the other winners tonight: I’m really happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time.”

After the show, West and Swift are BFFs — at least according to her Instagram, where she documented a huge flower arrangement that the rapper sent her, along with the caption, “Awwww Kanye sent me the coolest flowers!! #KanTay2020 #BFFs

It appears that West has been welcomed into the Taylor Swift Friendship Industrial Complex, otherwise known as the squad.

Feb. 11, 2016: Can it be that it was all so simple? Not for long — West debuts his long-awaited album, The Life of Pablo, at Madison Square Garden (alongside his Yeezy Season 3 fashion presentation) including the track, “Famous,” where he raps, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” In the wake of the backlash to the song, West claims that he had an “hour long convo with [Taylor] about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings.”

A rep for Swift denied the claim with a statement: “Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that bitch famous.'”

Feb. 15, 2016: At the Grammys, Swift accepts her Album of the Year award for 1989 and uses her speech as a platform to respond to West.

“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 are going to try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” Swift said, with a pointed emphasis on a certain word at the end of the sentence.

“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 will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be greatest feeling in the world.”

June 16, 2016: Kim Kardashian West is GQ‘s June cover girl and directly addresses the Taylor/Kanye phone call re: “Famous:” “She totally approved that,” Kardashian West said. “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…And then they sent an attorney’s letter like ‘Don’t you dare do anything with that footage,’ and asking us to destroy it.”

The day before the interview is released, photos of Swift and new flame Tom Hiddleston surface (just two weeks after her split from Calvin Harris), leading fans and outlets like New York Magazine to speculate that perhaps confirming her new relationship was a way to divert attention away from Kardashian West’s claims in GQ.

June 25, 2016: West debuts the very NSFW video for “Famous,” which features nude wax figures of celebrities who are connected to Kimye in some way, running the gamut from their respective exes, Amber Rose and Ray J, to political figures like George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Featured prominently is Swift, very naked, on the direct right of West.

July 18, 2016: Kardashian West takes to Twitter to tell her followers that they should really start following her on Snapchat as well.

The Swift controversy is discussed extensively in a Sunday night episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Kim releases footage of West seemingly speaking with Swift about the song, “Famous” (you can read the full transcript of the clips here), where the singer can be heard saying that the name check is a “compliment.”

The incident causes the Internet to lose its chill, while the hashtag #KimExposedTaylorParty emerges and celebrities of all varying types of fame chime in as either Team Taylor or Team Kim. Swift is spammed by Kimye stans who comment on her social media posts with snake emojis, which Kim shadily references herself with a cheeky tweet.

Swift herself takes to Instagram to respond, in a now-deleted Instagram, she notes that she would “like to be removed from this narrative.”

The Internet was quick to point out that her screenshot includes the “search” button, indicating that this note was pre-written, which either means that Swift has been planning to address this footage for a while or that this is all a bigger part of a conspiracy theory by Swift in her continued quest for world domination.

As Mr. West might say, this is a God dream.

July 27, 2016: West makes a guest appearance at Drake’s concert in Chicago, and predictably, speaks out on the Taylor Swift beef. The rapper told the crowd, “All I gotta say is, I am so glad my wife has Snapchat!” But Yeezy didn’t stop there. He also said, “Now y’all can know the truth and can’t nobody talk s–t about ‘Ye no more,” before launching into a performance of “Famous.”

July 28, 2016: Kimye gets the coveted September cover of Harper’s Bazaar, where they spill more piping hot tea in the never-ending drama of Swift vs. the Wests. When asked by editor Laura Brown about their favorite Taylor Swift song, West replied, “For me? I don’t have one,” while Kim subtly threw shade by commenting, “I was such a fan of hers.”

August 28, 2016: Kanye takes the stage for a riveting six minutes at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, the very awards show where the biggest feud of our generation started seven years ago at the 2009 show. In between shouting out his ex Amber Rose and wife Kim K’s ex, Ray J, West addresses the Taylor Swift-Kimye beef over “Famous” by saying that he’s a “lover of all,” which is why he called Swift to ask permission to reference her in the track.

Things came around full circle when ‘Ye also joked about his most notorious “I’mma let you finish…” moment with Taylor by saying that even if “Famous” lost to Beyoncé in the Video of the Year category, he wouldn’t be mad because he’s “always wishing for Beyoncé to win.” Queen Bey went on to take the Vidoe of the Year moon man award for her video, “Formation.”

August 21, 2017: Taylor Swift wipes her social media channels completely, before posting videos of what appears to be a snake. The Internet speculate that this is a reference to the snake emojis that Kimye stans spammed her account with after Kim’s Snapchat reveal.

August 23, 2017: Taylor confirms that she’s definitely leaning into the snake imagery;.

August 25, 2017: Taylor’s first single, “Look What You Made Me Do” off Reputation drops and fans speculates that it’s a diss track towards Kanye. With lyrics like “I don’t like your little games/ I don’t like your tilted stage” — West famously used an elevated tilted stage during his Saint Pablo tour — some on the Internet voice that Taylor is referencing Kanye.

August 27, 2017: Taylor debuts the music video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” which possibly contains coded references to Kimye and co. Besides some more blatant snake imagery, Taylor appears to reference an Instagram that Kendall Jenner posted after sister Kim’s Snapchat reveal of Kanye and Swift’s telephone conversation regarding “Famous.” Additionally, at the end, one of the personas that Taylor embodies as a version of herself in the video is seen snapping up a storm of selfies, then telling the others that she’s “getting receipts” so that she can “edit them later.” It bears mentioning that Kim is so well-known for taking selfies that she basically elevated the photo style to an art form (she has a Rizzoli book to prove it.) By saying that she’ll edit it later, the character could be suggesting people didn’t get the whole story behind the Taylor and Kanye’s “Famous” conversation. Another iteration of Taylor’s self from the 2009 VMAs states that she would “very much like to be excluded from this narrative,” referencing her notorious (and now-deleted) Instagram that was posted after Kim’s Snapchat reveal.

November 10, 2017: Taylor releases Reputation, which includes the song “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” which is widely believed to be about Kanye. She engages in clever wordplay could reference Kanye in a few ways. For one, there’s the line “it was so nice being friends again, there I was giving you a second chance, but you stabbed me in the back without shaking my hand” (possibly referring to their brief reconciliation during which Taylor presented Kanye his Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 VMAs.) Then there’s the fairly self-explanatory line that “therein lies the issues, friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and mind twist you,” which one could speculate refers to the infamous phone call that Taylor had with Kanye about “Famous” that was later shared via Kim Kardashian West’s Snapchat. Finally, Taylor went on to sing “but I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately/if only you weren’t so shady;” This could refer to Kanye’s fall-outs with friends of late, including his frequent collaborator, Jay Z who addressed friendship woes on his 2016 song “Real Friends.”

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com