Behind the Beef: Examining the Feud Between Kanye West & Taylor Swift

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Kanye West and Taylor Swift are not only two legendary singer/songwriters in their own right but two participants in one of music’s most documented, public feuds. Read below for a breakdown of how the Swift/West rivalry began, why it has stuck around, and where they stand now.

Where it all started: the VMAs.

It was 2009 and a mere hour into MTV’s Video Music Awards when West infamously interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech. Swift had won the award in the Best Female Video category for “You Belong With Me,” beating out Beyoncé’s video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

“Thank you so much!” Swift exclaimed after claiming her award. “I always dreamed about what it would be like to maybe win one of these someday, but I never actually thought it would have happened. I sing country music so thank you so much for giving me a chance to win a VMA award.”

The camera cuts to P!nk clapping for her peer up on stage, and by the time the camera cuts back, West is already on stage. He’s gotten ahold of Swift’s microphone.

“Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you,” West said, “I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” 

West then hands the microphone back to Swift, but her allotted speech time is up. Swift doesn’t utter another word and just stands there, clutching her silver astronaut award, while the crowd had reached an alarmingly loud volume.

It was the making of a years-long back and forth feud between two of music’s most impactful artists.

Build up to “Famous”

After the VMAs in 2009, West issued several apologies, but he would later take them back. For instance, on The Tonight Show after the awards ceremony, West publically stated his remorse. “It was rude, period,” he said. “I don’t try to justify it, ’cause I was in the wrong.” Yet, soon after, West retracted his early apologies. “Taylor never came to my defense in any interview,” West said. “And [she] rode the wave and rode it and rode it.”

In February of 2016, about seven years out from the VMAs, West dropped his seventh studio album Life of Pablo which includes the track “Famous.” It was a bombshell of a release for Swift and her fans because in West’s opening verse he raps these lyrics about Swift:

I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous
I made that bitch famous

The world was stunned. West was, in no uncertain terms, claiming responsibility for Swift’s fame. But was he serious? Before the world could reach a conclusion on the seriousness of the lyrics, West dropped the music video for “Famous,” which also featured a wax figure of Swift. Viewer discretion is advised for this music video as Swift’s likeness is pictured in the nude. Watch the music video for “Famous” HERE.

After the release of “Famous,” there was another back and forth discussion of whether or not Swift knew about the song’s contents. Swift apparently did know about the general direction of her shoutout in the rapper’s song (thanks to a leaked video from Kim Kardashian, West’s wife at the time). The “You Belong With Me” singer, however, was not aware of the severity of the lyrics. In the video, West never disclosed that he’d refer to Swift as “that bitch.”

“Look What You Made Me Do”

In 2017, Swift released “Look What You Made Me Do.” The song is from Swift’s sixth studio album, Reputation, and is widely believed to be about West. In addition to its pointed lyrics, the music video for the song includes a version of Swift dressed exactly like she was at the 2009 VMAs. That version of Swift states, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative,” almost completely confirming her focus on West. Watch the music video below.

Still feuding?

The Swift/West feud has been almost too quiet lately. No move towards reconciliation has occurred between the two artists, at least not publically, but West’s former wife has gone on the record saying that she enjoys Swift’s music. So, maybe we will see the two singers bury the hatchet. Or maybe, another diss track will drop. Stay tuned.

Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

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