Kanye West and Taylor Swift have had a tumultuous dynamic over the years — but what started the bad blood between the artists?
The infamous feud between the duo began when West shockingly ambushed Swift during the 2009 MTV VMAs. While Swift was giving her acceptance speech after taking home the trophy for Best Female Video, West took the stage to interrupt her and let the world know that Beyoncé should have won instead.
After West received tons of backlash from the incident, he ultimately apologized. While the pair seemingly made up after the awards show, the truce didn’t last for long.
Their bitter rivalry — which spanned for more than a decade — inspired several songs for both artists. The drama even led to Swift creating an entire era for herself with her iconic Reputation album.
Keep scrolling to see Swift and West’s history over the years:
The feud started when West interrupted Swift as she accepted the Best Female Video Award for “You Belong With Me” at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 2009. During her speech,
West grabbed the microphone out of her hand and yelled, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you. Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”
The camera immediately panned to a horrified Beyoncé, who was nominated in the same category for her “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video, saying, “No, Kanye.”
At the end of the night, Beyoncé came to Swift’s rescue. When she won her award for Video of the Year, Beyoncé brought Swift on stage to let her finish her speech.
West was immediately hit with backlash from celebs and fans alike. Then-president Barack Obama even called the rapper a “jackass” for the incident in an off-the-record comment during a CNBC interview.
Two days after the VMAs, West made a tearful appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. “It’s been a difficult day. … I immediately knew in the situation that it was wrong and it wasn’t a spectacle,” he explained at the time. “It’s actually someone’s emotions that I stepped on. It was rude, period. I’d like to apologize to her in person.”
After West shared his intentions to say he was sorry, Swift confessed the pair had spoken about the incident.
“Kanye did call me and he was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology,” Swift told ABC Radio at the time. “The support I got from other artists and from the fans, and so many people sticking up for me, that’s what got me to the place where I could accept that apology. And I’m just very thankful that everyone showed me so much love.”
Swift released the track “Innocent” on her Speak Now album. The song alluded to her drama with West.
“It’s all right / Just wait and see / Your string of lights is still bright to me / Who you are is not where you’ve been / You’re still an innocent / … It’s okay / Life is a tough crowd / 32 and still growing up now,” she sings.
Later that year, Swift took the stage at the 2010 VMAS to perform “Innocent,” which was widely interpreted as a dig at West.
While everything seemed to be at peace for West and Swift, things escalated for the musicians three years later. In June 2013, West sat down with The New York Times for an extensive Q&A and the infamous moment with Swift was brought up. When asked if he regretted the outburst, West stood by his decision to storm the stage.
“I don’t have one regret,” he said to the outlet. “If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.”
West and Swift made headlines in February 2015 when they were photographed smiling and having a conversation at the Grammy Awards. The next day, West told Ryan Seacrest in an interview that Swift approached him after Beck won the Album of the Year Award over Beyoncé and told him he should’ve gone on stage. “This is the irony in my life,” he quipped.
Seven months later, Swift revealed in the Vanity Fair September 2015 issue that she was gradually considering West as one of her friends.
“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 explained. “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.”
At the 2015 VMAs, Swift and West had a full-circle moment. Swift presented West with the coveted MTV Video Vanguard Award at that year’s ceremony.
“I first met Kanye West six years ago — at this show, actually!” she quipped before explaining that the rapper’s debut album, The College Dropout, was “the very first album my brother and I bought on iTunes when I was 12 years old.”
She continued: “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.”
When West dropped his album The Life of Pablo in February 2016, he included a track titled “Famous” — which shaded Swift. “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous,” he raps.
After receiving backlash for the controversial lyrics, West clarified on Twitter that he had an “hour long convo with [Swift] about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings.”
While many of Swift’s friends and family members addressed the song, the singer broke her silence on the situation days later as she accepted the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
“I want to say to all the young women out there: 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,” she said at the time. “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 the greatest feeling in the world.”
Four months later, West premiered the NSFW “Famous” music video, which featured naked look-alikes of himself, then-wife Kim Kardashian, Swift, Rihanna, Chris Brown and several more in bed together at a star-studded event at the Forum in Los Angeles. The voyeuristic visual, which was inspired by Vincent Desiderio’s “Sleep” painting, was heavily criticized by multiple stars, including Lena Dunham, who called the clip “one of the most disturbing ‘artistic’ efforts in recent memory.”
The following month, Kardashian came to West’s defense and claimed that Swift was aware of — and allegedly endorsed — the rapper’s lyrics before the song dropped.
“She totally approved that,” Kardashian told GQ magazine in July 2016. “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 s–t for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved.”
However, Kardashian’s involvement in Swift and West’s drama did not come to an end. While a July 2016 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians was airing, Kardashian released a series of Snapchat videos of West speaking to Swift on the phone. In the clips, Swift seemingly signed off on the controversial lyric and even called it “a compliment.”
That same day, Kardashian posted on her Twitter noting it was National Snake Day. “They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days!” she quipped alongside a series of snake emojis, throwing subtle shade at Swift.
Shortly after the videos were released, Twitter went wild and the hashtag #KimExposedTaylorParty became a worldwide trending topic. Swift responded via Instagram, saying that she was unaware that she’d be referred to as “that bitch” on the tune.
“Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination,” she penned. “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”
While Swift’s friends publicly came to her defense, West saw the moment as a victory himself. “I’m so glad my wife has Snapchat, ’cause now y’all can know the truth,” West told the crowd at a Drake concert in July 2016 where he came on stage to perform their collaboration “Pop Style.”
More than a year after the drama unfolded online, Swift announced her new album Reputation. Before breaking the news, Swift teased the release with a series of snake emojis on her social media.
When the album dropped in November 2017, a series of songs alluded to her feud with West and Kardashian including “Look What You Made Me Do,” “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” “I Did Something Bad” and “Call It What You Want.”
Two years later, Kardashian cleared the air about where she stood with Swift following her feud.
“I feel like we’d all moved on,” Kardashian said of Swift during a January 2019 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen while noting that she was “over it.”
Swift, for her part, reflected on the drama and how she overcame it in a March 2019 interview with Elle.
“I learned that disarming someone’s petty bullying can be as simple as learning to laugh,” Swift explained. “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.”
Swift explained that the symbolism of the snake and how she claimed it as her own helped her overcome the negative memories.
“It would be nice if we could get an apology from people who bully us,” Swift continued. “But maybe all I’ll ever get is the satisfaction of knowing I could survive it, and thrive in spite of it.”
In this same year, Swift engaged in a battle with Scooter Braun over the ownership of her masters when he purchased Big Machine Records in June 2019. While opening up about the struggle, Swift called out how the music manager fueled the flames of her feud with West.
“Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked,” she wrote in a lengthy Tumblr post. “Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”
Three months later, Swift confessed to Rolling Stone that she was done trying to make amends with West. “I realized he is so two-faced,” she said at the time. “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 s–t.”
Four years after the phone call incident, the full version of the chat between Swift and West leaked online. In the clip, West asked Swift to help promote the song, but it did contain a controversial lyric. Swift then asked if it was “gonna be mean” which West acknowledged he tamed it down after consulting with Kardashian. West played the snippet and Swift laughed and noted it was “not mean.”
However, the singer told West that she needed to “think about it because it is absolutely crazy.” West then promised to send her the full song and they would talk through it later — which never occurred.
When the clip went viral, Swift addressed the situation. “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 4 years) … SWIPE UP to see what really matters,” she wrote via her Instagram Story then concluded the post shedding light on organizations that needed aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Swift released her album Midnights, she dropped the track “Vigilante S–t” which could be referring to her drama with West or Braun.
The second verse finds Swift dreaming about becoming “thick as thieves with your ex-wife,” which could refer to Kardashian or Yael Cohen. “Now she gets the house, gets the kids, gets the pride,” Swift sings. “And she looks so pretty / Drivin’ in your Benz / Lately she’s been dressin’ for revenge.” (Following their feuds, both West and Braun divorced from their wives. West and Kardashian split in 2021 while Braun and Cohen called it quits in 2022.)
During Swift’s Eras Tour stop in Mexico City in August, the singer joked to the audience about the moment that ignited her feud with West nearly two decades prior. While on stage sharing the inspiration behind her tour, fans interrupted her speech to cheer her on.
“People chanting your name, it’s really the only way to be interrupted,” Swift quipped as she sat at her piano. “And I would know.”