Taylor Swift and Kanye West: A timeline of the feud that began at the 2009 MTV VMAs

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

The 2019 MTV VMAs marks 10 years since Kanye West disrupted then-19-year-old Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video to declare that her fellow nominee, Beyoncé, had “one of the best videos of all time.”

While much of the backlash was immediate, with even President Barack Obama privately calling West a jackass, the fallout continues to this day. The encounter sparked a longterm feud between Swift and West.

With the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards set for Monday, here’s a look back at what’s happened between West and Swift since that infamous moment.

Sept. 13, 2009: West interrupts Swift

As Swift begins her acceptance speech, for her “You Belong With Me” clip, West crashes the stage and takes the microphone. She looks confused, as does everyone else. “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you. Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time,” he says of the video for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” When that’s later named Video of the Year, Beyoncé brings Swift on stage to finish her speech, which she never had the chance to do after West’s outburst. He’s booted from the show.

Sept. 14, 2009: West apologizes

Within hours, West expresses remorse on his blog and again on The Jay Leno Show for his interruption. “It was rude, period,” West says. He adds that he hopes to apologize to Swift in person.

Kanye West talks to Jay Leno on the first episode of The Jay Leno Show on Sept. 14, 2009. (Photo: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank)

Sept. 15, 2009: Swift opens up.

The “Love Story” singer speaks about her VMAs experience on The View. “I think my overall thought process went 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!’” Swift says. “‘Cool haircut! What are you doing there? And then, Ouch. And then, I guess I’m not gonna be able to thank the fans.’” She also reveals that she has not yet heard from West. However, TMZ reports that West calls her immediately after the show airs and that she accepts his apology.

Sept. 12, 2010: Swift sings about West at the VMAs.

A year after the incident with West, Swift performs her song “Innocent,” which sure sounds like it is about her experience with the rapper. “I think a lot of people expected me to write a song about him,” Swift tells New York Magazine in October 2010. “But for me it was important to write a song to him.”

Nov. 23, 2010: West complains about Swift.

He now says that she’s using the incident for publicity. “Taylor never came to my defense in any interview,” West says during one of his concerts. “And [she] rode the wave and rode it and rode it.”

June 11, 2013: West says he has no regrets.

During an interview with the New York Times, West says his apology to Swift was the result of him giving in to peer pressure. “I don’t have one regret,” he says.

Feb. 11, 2015: West says he’s recording with Swift.

The “All of the Lights” artist tells Ryan Seacrest that he and Swift will soon collaborate. “She wants to get in the studio and we’re definitely going to go in,” West says. “I don’t have an elitism about music, I don’t discriminate.” In fact, the two are seen grabbing dinner together a few days later.

Aug. 30, 2015: Swift presents West a VMA award.

Nearly six years after the infamous moment, Swift takes to the VMAs stage to give the prestigious Video Vanguard Award to West. “I have been a fan of his since I can remember because Kanye defines what it is to be a creative force in music, fashion, and, well, life,” Swift says. She jokes, “I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Kanye has had one of the greatest careers of all time!” She documents on social media that he sends her white roses as thanks and offers to join him on the ticket when he runs for president.

Kanye West accepts the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award from Taylor Swift during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 30, 2015, in L.A. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/MTV1415/FilmMagic)

Feb. 11, 2016: West raps about Swift.

West’s new song “Famous” features the lyrics, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b**** famous.” He says that Swift approved the lyrics in a phone call and even found the words funny.

However, her team disputes it. “Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account,” a rep says in a statement. “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**** famous.’”

Feb. 15, 2016: Swift slams West at the Grammys.

A few days later, while accepting the Album of the Year award at the Grammys, Swift seems to address her latest drama with 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,” she says. “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.”

Taylor Swift accepts an award at the 2016 Grammys. (Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)

June 16, 2016: Kim Kardashian backs up West.

“She totally approved that,” West’s wife Kim Kardashian tells GQ about the reference to Swift in “Famous.” “She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn't. I swear, my husband gets so much s*** for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved.” Kardashian says the conversation was recorded. “And then they sent an attorney’s letter like ‘Don’t you dare do anything with that footage,’ and asking us to destroy it,” she adds.

June 25, 2016: West’s ‘Famous’ video features Swift.

The clip for West’s song is filled with wax figures of celebrities, including Rihanna, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour and, of course, Swift. They’re depicted naked, in bed, alongside West and Kardashian. Swift’s wax figure is front and center.

With the help of wax figures, Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities star in Kanye West's "Famous" video. (Photo: YouTube)

July 17, 2016: Kardashian posts a recording of West’s phone call to Swift.

Kardashian Snapchats the recorded conversation West and Swift had about “Famous” and calls her a snake.

Still, the clips don’t include Swift and West discussing the lyric that seems to be the problem for Swift, “Why? Because I made that b**ch famous.”

Swift defends herself on Instagram. “Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that b****’ 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****’ in front of the entire world,” she writes. “Of course I wanted to like the song. I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. He promised to play the song for me, but he never did. While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ a song you haven’t heard. 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 ends her post with the line, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”

Aug. 27, 2017: Swift pokes fun at her feuds.

Taylor releases her video “Look What You Made Me Do,” which takes on much of the gossip about her. At the end, several versions of her appear and, of course, one of them is her at the 2009 MTV VMAs. She says, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.”

VMAs 2009 Taylor Swift appears in the "Look What You Made Me Do" video. (Photo: YouTube)

Aug. 8, 2019: Swift looks back on the 2016 incident.

In an interview for the all-important September issue of Vogue, Swift discusses being deeply affected by her dealings with West and Kardashian. “I knew immediately I needed to make music about it because I knew it was the only way I could survive it,” she says. “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.”

Swift is scheduled to perform at the 2019 MTV VMAs at 8 p.m. on Aug. 26.

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