How Did We Get Here? A Timeline of the Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian Drama
The power in the 10-year feud between Taylor Swift and Kanye West has constantly shifted over the years (Kanye releases a song, Taylor fights back, Kanye talks about it in an interview, etc.), and it seems like that "bad blood" is still not behind them. Four years after the #PhoneGate incident between Taylor and Kanye, a YouTube account leaked a supposedly unedited version of the call between the artists. After Taylor briefly addressed the phone call on her Instagram Story, Kim Kardashian broke her silence on the matter yet again in a series of tweets. So, how the hell did we get to this point? You'll likely remember the 2009 MTV VMAs debacle that started it all, but there has been plenty of fuel for the fire in between. Let's take it back to the very beginning.
Sept. 13, 2009: The Moment That Started It All
At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" snagged the award for best female video. During the singer's acceptance speech, though, Kanye West took the microphone from her hand, told her he would let her finish, and insisted that Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" video was one of the best videos of all time. Bey's video, for the record, took home best video of the year.
Sept. 14, 2009: Kanye's First Apology
Kanye immediately did some damage control after the incident. He appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno and said, "I immediately knew in the situation that it was wrong . . . I would like to apologize to her in person." He also broke down in tears when Jay asked how his late mother would have felt about the situation.
Sept. 15, 2009: Taylor Breaks It Down on Her Side
The next day, Taylor shared her inner monologue on The View. "Ouch," Taylor said when asked what she was thinking as he made his outburst. "And then, 'I guess I'm not going to get to thank the fans.'" The hosts of the show then brought up the aforementioned Jay Leno interview and asked if she'd be willing to meet with him. "Sure," she answered. "I mean, he has not personally reached out or anything. But, if he wanted to say hi."
Sept. 7, 2010: A Signature Kanye Twitter Rant
Just under a year after the fateful night in question, Kanye fired off more than 30 tweets in the kind of Twitter rant we've come to expect from him. The rapper, of course, went through a score of tangents but directly mentioned Taylor at one point. During yet another apology for his actions, he also revealed that he'd written a song about Taylor.
Sept. 12, 2010: Taylor Returns to the VMAs Stage
The following year, at the 2010 MTV VMAs, Taylor sang a new song from her soon-to-be-dropped Speak Now album. The song was called "Innocent," and it was widely speculated that Taylor meant to address the whole Kanye mess. The performance seemed to confirm the rumors, as Taylor projected clips of the 2009 incident on a large screen before she started singing.
Sept. 12, 2010: Kanye Comes Forward With a Song of His Own
Taylor wasn't the only one who seemed to have the fated interruption on her mind a whole year later. On a bit of a subtler note, Kanye performed "Runaway," a new song that one might call an unconventional apology. He does wax poetic about his poor treatment of women within the lyrics, but he also calls for a "toast to the douchebags" and assh*les. Seeing as his Twitter storm cited a new song about Taylor, it was widely agreed that this was it.
Oct. 19, 2010: Kanye Opens Up About the Incident — Again
More than a year after the incident occurred, Kanye still seemed to be rueful about his actions, but he'd gotten to a place where he was trying to justify his motives. "I feel like, in some ways, like I'm a soldier of culture," he said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "And I realize that no one wants that to be my job, and I'll never go on stage again, and I'll never sit 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 and years? I'm sorry. I will."
June 11, 2013: A Long Q&A With The New York Times
By the time 2013 rolled around, Kanye seemed to be over the whole situation. The rapper told The New York Times, "[My instinct] has 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." He also stated, though, "I don't have one regret," and that, "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: Water Under the Bridge
More than five years after the 2009 MTV VMAs, Taylor and Kanye finally seemed to have buried the hatchet. At the 2015 Grammy Awards, the two happily posed for photographs and seemed to engage in lively conversation.
September 2015: Taylor Reflects Back on the Drama
In her cover feature in the September issue of Vanity Fair, Taylor explained how she and Kanye finally landed on friendly terms:
"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. I became friends with Jay Z, and I think it was important, for Jay Z, for Kanye and I to get along. It started with both of us really liking Jay and wanting him to be happy. 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's doing."
Aug. 30, 2015: Right Back Where They Started From
At the 2015 MTV VMAs, Taylor presented Kanye with an esteemed honor: the Video Vanguard Award. During her speech, Taylor referenced the "infamous encounter" and even poked fun at the moment. "I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish," she said, "but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time!"
Feb. 11, 2016: The Infamous "Famous" Lyrics That Reignited the Feud
As Kanye debuted Yeezy Season 3 in NYC, he also played his new album, The Life of Pablo. One lyric in particular piqued the interest of audience members and the internet universe alike. In "Famous," Kanye raps, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that b*tch famous."
Feb. 12, 2016: A Horrified Response From Taylor's Rep
Taylor was quick to release a statement about the song and lyrics in question. According to her spokesperson, "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 b*tch famous.'"
Feb. 15, 2016: Taylor Doubles Down on Her Kanye Backlash
At the 2016 Grammy Awards, Taylor nabbed the album of the year for her sensational pop album 1989. When she took the stage to accept the award, she seized the opportunity to implicitly address Kanye's recent actions. "I want to say to all the young women out there," Taylor said, wrapping up, "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 that it was you, and the people who love you, who put you there."
June 2016: Kim Inserts Herself Into the Situation
After landing her very first GQ cover, Kim Kardashian seized the opportunity to set the record straight . . . and call out Taylor. In the accompanying interview, Kim insisted Taylor knew about "Famous" from the start.
"She totally knew that that was coming out. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn't. [She] totally approved that [line in the song about Swift]. I swear, my husband gets so much sh*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? [She] totally gave the okay. Rick Rubin was there. So many respected people in the music business heard that [conversation] and knew. I mean, he's called me a b*tch in 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 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."
June 25, 2016: Kanye Adds Insult to Injury
In June, Kanye released a highly controversial music video for the song. The ending shot of the music video features an arresting tableau of naked celebrities. They're all lying in a very large bed with Kim and Kanye. Directly on the rapper's right is a nude and exposed Taylor.
July 14, 2016: Keeping Up With the Kardashians Catches Up to Reality
In an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim discusses the controversy with Kourtney Kardashian. She says Taylor's Grammy Awards speech was "just another way to play the victim" and "it definitely got her a lot of attention the first time." Later, she reveals to the camera that she's tired of "people blatantly treating my husband a certain way and trying to make him look a certain way."
July 17, 2016: Kim Produces All the Receipts
As the episode in question aired, Kim made it quite clear she wasn't done with Taylor. On her Snapchat, the star posted the entire conversation between Kanye and Taylor. In the clip, Kanye asks for Taylor's input on the lyrics, and she responds, "Go with whatever line you think is better. It's obviously very tongue in cheek either way. And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that's really nice!"
July 17, 2016: Taylor Drops a Quick Response
On the same evening as the KUWTK episode and Kim's Snapchat exposure, Taylor posted a statement on her Instagram, insisting she was never made aware of the specific line in which Kanye calls her a "b*tch." "I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009," she added.
Aug. 24, 2017: Taylor Releases a Song That's Presumably About Kanye
After a year of staying almost completely out of the spotlight, Taylor returned with a bang. She released her new single, "Look What You Made Me Do," shortly after announcing her new album, Reputation. The song, along with the video, is full of references to Kanye and their feud. And just like Kanye did when he premiered his music video for "Fade" at the MTV VMAs in 2016, Taylor released the song's official video at this year's show.
Aug. 28, 2017: Kim and Kanye Aren't Impressed
Despite the multiple Kim and Kanye references in Taylor's "Look What You Made Me Do," it looks like the couple isn't phased by any of it. "Kim and Kanye don't care about Taylor's new music," a source told People. "They find it pathetic that she still tries to keep an old feud going. They are not going to give her or her new music any attention. They have more important things to focus on, like their family."
Nov. 10, 2017: Reputation Dominates the Conversation
With the release of her new album, Reputation, Taylor Swift once again came out guns blazing. The most direct Kim and Kanye message comes from "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," the 13th track. The most telling lyrics come in the second verse, when Taylor sings, "It was so nice being friends again / There I was, giving you a second chance / But then you stabbed my back while shaking my hand / And therein lies the issue / Friends don't try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you."
Aside from the obvious reference to the infamous phone call, there's also a point where Taylor toasts to her "real friends," which is the title of a Kanye song.
May 8, 2018: Here We Go Again
During the opening night of her Reputation tour in Glendale, AZ, the singer briefly opened up about her drama with Kim and Kanye and used it as a way to empower her fans. "A couple of years ago, someone called me a snake on social media, and it caught on," she said, alluding to Kim. "I went through some times when I didn't know if I was going to get to do this anymore. I wanted to send a message to you guys that if someone uses name-calling to bully you on social media, and even if a lot of people jump on board with it, that doesn't have to defeat you. It can strengthen you instead."
So now, we wait and see what happens next. Only time will tell. Then again, maybe Kim and Kanye won't respond at all.
Jan. 14, 2018: Is the Feud Finally Over?
During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live, Kim told Andy Cohen that her beef with Taylor was over. "I feel like we've all moved on," she said. Shortly after, Kim indicated that she was "making peace" with Taylor by sharing a video of her listening to the singer's song "Delicate" on her Snapchat.
Sept. 18, 2019: Taylor Tells Her Side of the Story
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the singer recalled how her reignited feud with Kanye actually went down. "Some events took place to cause me to be pissed off when he called me a b*tch. That was not just a singular event. Basically, I got really sick of the dynamic between he and I. And that wasn't just based on what happened on that phone call and with that song — it was kind of a chain reaction of things," she explained. "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 sh*t. And I was so upset."
March 20, 2020: Someone Leaks the Full Phone Call From 2016
The drama resurfaced when a YouTube account leaked a supposedly unedited version of the call between the artists from 2016. In the video, Kanye runs certain lyrics by Taylor over the phone but notably does not ask for her approval of the now-infamous line, "I made that b*tch famous." Kanye also asks Taylor to share the track on Twitter as promotion, and she responds hesitantly. "I guess it would just be, people would be like, 'Why is this happening?' And I had something to do with it, probably," she says.
Later in the call, Kanye runs another lyric idea by Taylor. "What if I said I made you famous?" he asks. She doesn't sound comfortable with this line. "Did you say that? Oh God, well, what am I going to do about it at this point?" she says. "It's just kind of, like, whatever at this point, but I mean, you gotta tell the story the way it happened to you and the way that you experienced it." She continues: "You honestly didn't know who I was before that. It doesn't matter if I sold 7 million of that album before you did that, which is what happened. You didn't know who I was before that and that's fine. Yeah, I can't wait to hear it."
March 23, 2020: Taylor Breaks Her Silence on the Leaked Phone Call
Following the leak, Taylor briefly addressed the phone call on her Instagram Story before encouraging fans to focus on other issues instead. She then linked to The World Health Organization and Feeding America and asked fans to join her in donating to coronavirus relief.
March 23, 2020: Kim Comments on the Feud For "the Last Time"
Shortly after Taylor shared her Instagram Story, Kim took to Twitter to address the feud and phone call once more. ". @taylorswift13 has chosen to reignite an old exchange — that at this point in time feels very self-serving given the suffering millions of real victims are facing right now," she began. She made it clear that the only issue she "ever had around the situation was that Taylor lied through her publicist who stated that 'Kanye never called to ask for permission . . ."
Taylor's publicist Tree Paine later tweeted the full statement she originally released, which in its entirety read: "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 b*tch famous.'"
Kim continued that she "never edited the footage" of the phone call and that "Kanye as an artist has every right to document his musical journey and process, just like [Taylor] recently did through her documentary [Miss Americana]."
She signed off by tweeting, "This will be the last time I speak on this because honestly, nobody cares. Sorry to bore you all with this. I know you are all dealing with more serious and important matters."