The longstanding feud between Taylor Swift, Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian exploded into prominence again in March 2020. Like a bolt from the blue, an alleged newer version of a well-known phone call between Swift and West was leaked online. And it might have cast the antagonistic relationship between the three stars in a whole new light.
The feud actually began over a decade ago during an awkward moment at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The then-19-year-old Swift was on stage gratefully accepting her award for Best Female Video for the song “You Belong with Me.” But in the middle of the singer’s speech, West unexpectedly interrupted her.
Crashing the stage, West then grabbed the microphone from the visibly shocked singer. He proceeded to say, “Yo, [Swift], I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” And Swift looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights – completely unsure of what to do.
The cameras cut to Beyoncé, whose expression was one of horror – despite West seemingly doing this in her honor. By the time West had finished and handed the microphone back to Swift, the latter’s time on stage was up. West was subsequently removed from the rest of the show, and when Beyoncé was accepting her own award for Video of The Year she brought Swift back up on stage to finish her speech.
At the time, West was already hugely successful – with two number one Billboard 200 albums under his belt. But the world didn’t react kindly to him ruining Swift’s moment. Before an interview with CNBC, then-President Barack Obama was recorded telling reporter John Harwood, “I thought it was inappropriate. It’s like she’s getting an award, why are you butting in? He’s a jackass.”
Initially, West was publicly remorseful for what he did. A few weeks after the VMAs, he was interviewed on The Jay Leno Show and said, “It was rude, period.” He added, “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.”
West added, “My entire life, I’ve only wanted to do and give something that I felt was right and I immediately knew in this situation that it was wrong.” Then at around the same time, Swift appeared on The View and claimed that the rapper hadn’t contacted her personally to say sorry. She detailed her confusion about the situation and lamented that the opportunity to thank her fans during her speech was derailed.
After The View, West did reach out to Swift to apologize. She told NBC News Radio at the time, “[He] did call me, and he was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted [it]…” West then expressed regret again a year later on Twitter, writing, “I’m sorry, [Swift]. We’re both artists, and the media and managers are trying to get between us.” At this point the rapper also revealed that he had written a song for her.
However, West’s remorse didn’t last very long. In November 2010 he told Minnesota radio station KDWB that his decision to interrupt Swift’s speech was a “selfless” act – because she hadn’t deserved the award as much as Beyoncé. Then during an on-stage rant at a concert in New York’s Bowery Ballroom that same month he also accused Swift of not taking the chance to come to his defense during interviews.
By June 2013 West had executed a complete U-turn on his apology. He told The New York Times that he had no regrets, adding, “If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.” Furthermore, he claimed peer pressure was the main driving force behind his previous apologies.
However, by 2015 West and Swift seemed to have buried the hatchet. They were seen at the Grammy Awards being friendly and rumors of a musical collaboration began to swirl. West even told Ryan Seacrest, “She wants to get in the studio and we’re definitely going to go in.”
In the days following the Grammys, the two stars were seen eating together at The Spotted Pig restaurant in New York City. Then, that August Swift presented West with the Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs. And doing this at the same awards ceremony that kicked off their feud six years previously was a good indication yet that a new day had dawned in their relationship.
Unfortunately, everything came crashing down in February 2016 when West released a new song entitled “Famous.” It included the contentious lyrics, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex: why? I made that b**ch famous.” Fans were understandably stunned – despite West insisting Swift had given him the all clear to use those words.
West tweeted, “I called [Swift] and had an hour-long convo with her about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings.” However, the response from Swift’s camp was quick and made it clear they weren’t in agreement. The official statement read, “[West] did not call for approval, but to ask [Swift] to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account.”
The statement continued, “[Swift] declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. [She] was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that b**ch famous.’” Swift didn’t speak on the matter herself, but her brother Austin posted a video on Instagram with the telling message, “Getting a head start on some spring cleaning. Here we go again.”
West’s wife Kim Kardashian then piled into the feud herself in June 2016 during an interview with GQ about the situation. Regarding Swift’s view on the song lyrics, the reality show icon said, “She totally approved that. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn’t.” Kardashian believed that Swift had decided to backtrack on the permission she had given in order to act like a victim.
Kardashian went on to claim that she had camera-video evidence of a conversation between Swift and West where the latter had approved the lyrics. Kardashian even alleged that Swift’s legal team had sent her a threat. She told GQ magazine that month, “And then they sent an attorney’s letter like, ‘Don’t you dare do anything with that footage,’ and [they asked us] to destroy it.”
Kardashian then took things up several notches in July 2016. She urged her fans to start following her on Snapchat and then later published the alleged recording of Swift and West’s phone conversation on the account. And, as expected, this video seemed to show her agreeing to the rapper using her name in “Famous.”
Interestingly, the footage released by Kardashian didn’t actually show Swift consenting to the use of the word “b**ch.” Swift then responded with an emotional Instagram post and pointed this very thing out. The star asked, “Where is the video of [West] telling me he was going to call me ‘that b**ch’ in his song? It doesn’t exist – because it never happened.”
“You don’t get to control someone’s emotional response to being called ‘that b**ch’ in front of the entire world,” blasted Swift. “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.”
In March 2019 things went up another notch when Swift claimed that Kardashian and West’s treatment of her had led to a campaign of online bullying. She told Elle that month, “In my experience, I’ve come to see that bullies want to be feared and taken seriously. A few years ago, someone started an online hate campaign by calling me a snake on the internet. The fact that so many people jumped on board with it led me to feeling lower than I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Swift then told Vogue in August that year, “A mass public shaming – with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote cancelled – is a very isolating experience. I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly.”
Swift explained that her mental health was badly impacted by the whole experience. She added, “When you say someone is cancelled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, ‘Kill yourself.’”
“I knew immediately I needed to make music about it because I knew it was the only way I could survive it,” Swift went on. “It was the only way I could preserve my mental health and also tell the story of what it’s like to go through something so humiliating.” And in the end, her struggles were channelled into her 2017 album Reputation.
However, in March 2020 the West/Swift spat was reignited. A supposedly unedited video clip of the stars’ conversation about “Famous” was leaked online and fans quickly lost their minds. Why? Well, because the clip seemed to prove that Swift had been telling the truth the whole time.
The video shows West and Swift on a phone call, and the former asks the singer if she would tweet “Famous” out to her followers following the single’s release. Swift, naturally, asks him why she would be inclined to do this. And West replies, “The reason why it would be happening is because it has a very controversial line at the beginning of the song about you.”
West explains in the clip that he was thinking of including one of two lines in the song. The first option was, “I feel like Taylor Swift might owe me sex” and the second was, “I feel like me and [Swift] might still have sex.” Interestingly, the singer seems to get the humor presumably intended by the lines, because she laughs and says, “That’s not mean.”
The rapper goes on, “If you felt it’s funny and cool and hip-hop and felt like just the College Drop-Out and artist like Ye that you love, then people will be way into it.” In the video, Swift doesn’t seem to have a problem with the lyrics suggested, although she does say that she needs to think it over. Crucially, however, the clip reveals that Swift never agreed to the, “I made that b**ch famous” line.
Social media then went into a flurry, as Swift’s legions of fans posted about their hero seemingly being vindicated by the clip. One Twitter user wrote, “[Swift] has been wronged since the beginning. Kim Kardashian is the real snake.” Another said, “Taylor Swift told the truth. That’s it. Kanye West is a toxic liar.”
For his part, Buzzfeed writer Ryan Schocket penned a scathing tweet about West and Kardashian. He wrote, “Basically, the whole phone call leaked – revealing Taylor Swift never consented to being called ‘that b**ch.’ She never lied or was a ‘snake.’ She was recorded illegally and manipulated by Kanye West and everyone owes her an apology.”
Swift soon took to Instagram to deliver her view of what had happened. She wrote, “Instead of answering those who are asking how I feel about the video footage that leaked, proving that I was telling the truth the whole time about that call – you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated in order to frame me and put me, my family, and fans through hell for four years – swipe up to see what really matters.”
Swift’s “swipe up” instruction directed fans to the donation page of the food bank network Feeding America. However, despite this suggestion to focus on more important matters, Kardashian let it be known on Twitter that she wasn’t happy with the first part of Swift’s post.
Kardashian tweeted, “[Swift] has chosen to reignite an old exchange that at [this stage] feels very self-serving…” The socialite then followed that message with a thread of tweets which expanded on her thoughts.
“I didn’t feel the need to comment a few days ago, and I’m actually really embarrassed and mortified to be doing it right now,” Kardashian continued. “But because [Swift] continues to speak on it, I feel I’m left without a choice but to respond because she is actually lying.”
Kardashian went on, “To be clear, the only issue I ever had around the situation was that [Swift] lied through her publicist who stated that ‘[West] never called to ask for permission.’” They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word ‘b**ch’ was used without her permission.”
“At the time when [Swift and West] spoke the song had not been fully written yet.” the reality TV star continued. “But as everyone can see in the video, she manipulated the truth of their actual conversation in her statement when her team said she ‘declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message.’”
“The lie was never about the word b**ch, It was always whether there was a call or not and the tone of the conversation,” Kardashian said. “I never edited the footage – another lie – I only posted a few clips on Snapchat to make my point and the full video that recently leaked doesn’t change the narrative.” Indeed, Kardashian wasn’t about to backtrack on her convictions at all.
Kardashian even gave an explanation as to why her husband was recording his conversation with Swift. She wrote on Twitter, “[West] has documented the making of all of his albums for his personal archive, however [he] has never released any of it for public consumption and the call between the two of them would have remained private…”
Kardashian claimed that the recording of the call between West and Swift “would have remained private or would have gone in the trash had she not lied and forced me to defend him.” She finished her tweet thread with, “This will be the last time I speak on this because honestly, nobody cares. Sorry to bother you all with this. I know you are all dealing with more serious and important matters.”
Tree Paine, Swift’s publicist, chimed in on the matter with her own tweet. She posted the singer’s 2016 statement claiming that she hadn’t given West approval to use the lyric, adding, “I’m [Swift’s] publicist and this is my unedited original statement. By the way, when you take parts out, that’s editing. P.S. who did you guys p**s off to leak that video?”