From VMAs Drama to ‘thanK you aIMee’: A Timeline of Taylor Swift’s Feud With Kim Kardashian, Kanye West

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Credit: Bellocqimages/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images;  Neilson Barnard/Getty Images/The Recording Academy; Leon Bennett/GA/The Hollywood Reporter/Getty Images
Credit: Bellocqimages/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Neilson Barnard/Getty Images/The Recording Academy; Leon Bennett/GA/The Hollywood Reporter/Getty Images

Since 2009, Taylor Swift and Kanye West have been locked in one of the tensest battles in celebrity history. They mostly stayed out of each other’s ways after their first, infamous, televised moment together until a public reconciliation in 2015 made it seem like all of that was just water under the bridge. But who knew the worst was yet to come?

Things between Swift and West would not only worsen immensely in 2016, after West released his song “Famous,” but their web would soon entangle Kim Kardashian, Scooter Braun, and even Justin Bieber.

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After the release of Swift’s eleventh album The Tortured Poets Department, it’s clear the wound remains open as she appears to take an extremely thinly veiled shot at Kardashian’s involvement in what she once called a “career death.”

Take a look back at everything that transpired since West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs 15 years ago.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13:   Kanye West (L) jumps onstage after Taylor Swift (C) won the "Best Female Video" award during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on September 13, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Kanye West jumped onstage after Taylor Swift won the “Best Female Video” award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Sept. 13, 2009: Kanye Interrupts Taylor’s VMAs Speech

In 2009, Taylor Swift was a 19-year-old country star whose album, Fearless, was also a hit with mainstream pop fans. Her video for “You Belong With Me” beat out Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” for Best Female Video, and she went to the stage to accept the award. So far, so good.

Then Kanye, as we all remember, jumped onstage, grabbed the mic, and said, “Yo, Taylor, 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!”

Kanye was booed, and celebrities quickly rallied behind Swift, including the President of the United States himself (“He’s a jackass,” Barack Obama shrugged) and Beyoncé herself, who invited Swift onstage with her when accepting her Video of the Year award later that night.

West wrote an apologetic blog post, which he yanked, then wrote another, then finally express his regret on The Jay Leno Show, saying he was ashamed. He later contacted Swift to apologize by phone.

But by this point, “interrupting Kanye” and his “I’mma let you finish” were internet memes and the incident had become one of the most parodied awards show moments, as Kanye might say, of all time. Of all time.

Nov. 7, 2009: Taylor Hosts SNL and References VMA Incident

Two months after the VMA moment, Swift hosted Saturday Night Live and addressed the incident with West with a joking line in her “Monologue Song.”

“You might be expecting me to say/Something bad about Kanye/And how he ran up on the stage/And ruined my VMA monologue,” Swift said at the Nov. 7, 2009 show.  “But there’s nothing more to say/’Cause everything’s OK/I’ve got security lining the stage/It’s my SNL monologue.”

September 2010: Kanye Apologizes on Twitter, Taylor Debuts “Innocent

A year later, Kanye fired off a lengthy, apologetic tweet storm, saying he’d written her a song that he’d record himself if she didn’t want it, and he concluded with a simple “I’m sorry Taylor.” But Swift had a song of her own that seemed to address the controversy, “Innocent,” which she premiered at that year’s VMAs.

Innocent,” which walked a fine line between forgiving and condescending, would also appear on Swift’s album, Speak Now. (Cynics might note that this feud flares up when there’s an award show on the horizon, or one of the artists in question has a new album to promote.)

Nov. 5, 2010: Kanye Backtracks on Apology

The controversy seemed to have died down after that, but in an interview with Access Hollywood in October 2010, West listed Swift’s Fearless among recent albums that should not have won the Grammy for Album of the Year. And as interviewers kept mentioning the VMA incident, West struggled to explain and sometimes defend it.

On Minnesota radio station KDWB in November, he claimed his actions were not “arrogant” but “selfless.” He also claimed that the event benefitted Swift, saying that he helped her “have 100 magazine covers and sell a million [her] first week.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Recording artist Kanye West (L) accepts the Video Vanguard Award from recording artist Taylor Swift onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/MTV1415/Getty Images For MTV)
Kanye West accepting the Video Vanguard Award from Taylor Swift at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater in Lost Angeles

August 2015: Taylor Presents Kanye With Video Vanguard Award at VMAs

In May 2011, Kanye West and Taylor Swift met on the red carpet at the Costume Institute Gala — without incident. The two exchanged a down-low hand slap. The hatchet seemed permanently buried when Swift was tapped to present the Michael Jackson Video Award to West at the 2015 VMAs.

Her speech concluded, “All the other winners, I’m really happy for you, I’m going to let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time.” West’s acceptance was heartfelt but rambling, suggesting his issues with awards shows were far from settled.

Feb. 11, 2016: Kanye Mentions Taylor in New Song “Famous

To premiere his latest album, The Life of Pablo, West took over Madison Square Garden and livesteamed a lavish event dubbed Yeezy Season 3. The spectacle received a wide range of responses, but everyone shook their head at one set of lyrics in his new song “Famous:” “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous/Goddamn, I made that bitch famous.”

Kanye later said he’d gotten Taylor’s permission to drop that line, but a statement from Swift’s PR people disputed that: “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 bitch famous.’”

Kanye took to Twitter, as he does, where he stuck to his story that Swift approved of the lines.

Feb. 15, 2016: Taylor Shades Kanye During Grammys Speech

The ball was in Swift’s court, then, when 1989 won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Her response was impassioned and as clearly directed at West as it could be without mentioning his name.

“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 will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” Swift said onstage.

But that was hardly the end of the battle.

Feb. 17, 2016: Kanye Calls Taylor “Fake-Ass” in Leaked Saturday Night Live Rant

And the beef rages on. Details about the source and the exact context are still sketchy, but two days after Swift’s Grammy win, Page Six posted audio of an enraged West apparently venting backstage at SNL on Feb. 13.

The clip is essentially an extended “Do you know who I am?” tirade — in which the rapper likens himself to Stanley Kubrick, Pablo Picasso, and other icons — but West can be heard throwing in a quick Swift diss as well, labeling the singer-songwriter “fake ass.”

June 2016: Kim Joins the Battle and West Drops “Famous” Video with Nude Taylor Replica

The squabbling over “Famous” had largely died down until an incendiary quote appeared in a GQ profile of Kim Kardashian.

According to Kim, Kanye not only called Taylor for approval of the line, but their call was captured on video — and Swift, Kardashian said, knew about this footage. (In response, a Swift representative stated, “Taylor cannot understand why Kanye West, and now Kim Kardashian, will not just leave her alone.”)

It might have seemed like an offhand remark. But a celebrity as publicity savvy as Kim Kardashian does not make offhand remarks.

Then, on June 24, West debuted a nine-minute video for “Famous” at an exclusive Tidal event at the Forum in Los Angeles that featured Kanye and Kim in bed, surrounded by nude replicas of a number of celebrities.

At the place of honor, to Ye’s right, was a fully undressed Taylor Swift facsimile. West insisted the video had nothing to say about the individuals represented, but was just “a comment on fame.” Then he tweeted: “Can somebody sue me already #I’llwait.”

July 2016: Kim Snapchats Video of Taylor Approving Controversial “Famous” Lyric; Taylor Calls Move “Character Assassination”

Up until this point, the feud over Kanye’s crass “Famous” lyric — “For all my Southside n—as that know me best/I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex” — has been a classic case of he-said-she-said.

But on a July Sunday night, Kim Kardashian introduced a key, highly damning piece of evidence into the court of public opinion. She vented her frustration on Keeping Up With the Kardashians; “I’ve had it with people blatantly treating my husband a certain way and making him look a certain way; I’m gonna say how I feel.” Then, she took to Snapchat to reveal the smoking-gun video she teased in GQ, which clearly shows Swift approving the supposedly controversial lyric.

“What’s dope about the line is it’s very tongue-in-cheek either way,” the pop star says after West reads her the line. “And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that’s really nice.”

After the video reveal, Swift quickly fired back, taking issue with being called a “bitch” in the song and indicating that West never played her the full track prior to release as he promised: “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 wrote on Instagram.

Almost seven years after “I’mma let you finish,” this epic beef has seemingly reached a new apex.

Aug. 24, 2017: Taylor Releases “Look What You Made Me Do

After a long hiatus, Swift releases “Look What You Made Me Do,” the feisty lead single off her forthcoming new album Reputation.

With vengeful lyrics like “I don’t like your little games/ I don’t like your tilted stage,/ I don’t like you,” plus an effect that sounds as if she’s singing through a phone, the track seems to allude to her long, public feud with West.

November 2017: Taylor Releases Reputation With More Shots at Kimye

Although she’s never confirmed that her lyrics are about her Kimye feud, fans have long speculated that several of the tracks on her LP Reputation are aimed at West and Kardashian.

On “I Did Something Bad,” she sang both lyrics “I never trust a narcissist, but they love me,” and later, “If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothin’, I don’t regret it one bit ’cause he had it coming.”

Then on “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Swift alluded to her friendship-rekindling with West and how she felt tricked and bamboozled by the rap star after she misled her following the 2015 VMAs. She described the rapper as “shady” and referenced how West has lost several other friends because of his antics.

“It was so nice being friends again / There I was giving you a second chance / But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand,” Swift sings. “And therein lies the issue / Friends don’t try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you / And so I took an axe to a mended fence.”

And of course, the fan-favorite line: “And here’s to you / ‘Cause forgiveness is a nice thing to do / Hahaha, I can’t even say it with a straight face.”

Early 2019: Kim Declares Feud Is Over, But Taylor Claims There’s Been No Apology

The Kimye-Taylor beef seemingly took a pause in January 2019 when Kardashian visited Andy Cohen’s What What Happens Live and told the host that she was “over” her family’s fight with Swift.

“I feel like we’d all moved on,” Kardashian said, before stating she’d rather be stuck in an elevator with Swift over Drake in a “Would You Rather” game.

But then in March, Swift appeared on the cover of Elle and alluded to the fact that the couple had yet to apologize for their treatment to her.

“I learned that disarming someone’s petty bullying can be as simple as learning to laugh,” Swift wrote in Elle. “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.”

“It would be nice if we could get an apology from people who bully us, but maybe all I’ll ever get is the satisfaction of knowing I could survive it, and thrive in spite of it,” she added.

Summer 2019: Taylor Calls “Famous” Video “Revenge Porn

Amid the Scooter Braun-Big Machine Records debacle about him owning her masters (Here’s a breakdown of that beef), Swift directly addressed her feelings surrounding the “Famous” music video, which saw a fake Swift nude laying in the same bed as numerous other celebs, including Donald Trump.

In a Tumblr post in June 2019, she described the incident as a “revenge porn music video which strips my body naked.”

Swift’s post included a screenshot from Justin Bieber’s Instagram of the pop star FaceTiming West and Braun, and captioned it “Hello Taylor Swift.” In her Tumblr post, Swift described how the manager and her client was “bullying me on social media when I was at my lowest point.”

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 26: Taylor Swift attends the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center on August 26, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for MTV)
Taylor Swift at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey

September 2019: Taylor Details Her Side of Infamous Phone Call with Kanye

During a Rolling Stone cover story in September 2019, the singer spoke at great length about the 2016 phone call between herself and West regarding “Famous” and how “the world didn’t understand… the events that led up to it.”

“Nothing ever just happens like that without some lead-up,” she started to explain. “Some events took place to cause me to be pissed off when he called me a bitch. 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.”

Swift explained that she thought she and West had started to reconnect after he asked her to present him with the 2015 VMA Vanguard Award. But then, onstage, he claimed that it was all done for ratings.

“I’m standing in the audience with my arm around his wife, and this chill ran through my body. I realized he is so two-faced,” Swift said. “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 shit. And I was so upset. He wanted me to come talk to him after the event in his dressing room. I wouldn’t go. So then he sent this big, big thing of flowers the next day to apologize.”

Then, the phone call about the “Famous” lyric occurred, and she claims she was misled by the rapper from the get-go.

“When I heard the song, I was like, ‘I’m done with this. If you want to be on bad terms, let’s be on bad terms, but just be real about it,’” she explained, later explaining his tactics: “Getting close to you, earning your trust, detonating you. I really don’t want to talk about it anymore because I get worked up, and I don’t want to just talk about negative shit all day, but it’s the same thing.”

Jan. 31, 2020: Taylor Details Memory of Crowd “Booing” After Kanye Interrupted Her

Swift looked back at the infamous VMA moment with West in her Miss Americana documentary.

“It was so echeoy in there. At the time, I didn’t know they were booing him doing him doing that,” she said in the documentary. “At the time, I thought they were booing me.”

“For someone who has built their whole belief system on getting people to clap for you, the whole crowd booing is a pretty formative experience,” she added.

March 2020: The “Famous” Phone Call Leaks in Full, Taylor and Kim Both Respond 

It took four years for the full phone call between West and Swift to leak online. In videos posted to Twitter, Swift and West could be heard conversing about the “Famous” lyrics, even revealing that West wanted Swift “to tweet it.”

“So it says, ‘To all my Southside n—as that know me best/ I feel like Taylor Swift might owe me sex,” West told the singer. “That’s not mean,” responded Swift in the clip leaked on March 20, 2020.

In the clip, Swift also shared her relief after learning that she was not “that stupid dumb bitch” that West raps about in the song. Though she told him, she’d need to “think about it because it is absolutely crazy.”

“I’m going to send you the song and send you the exact wording and everything about it, right? And then we could sit and talk through it,” West tells her.

Three days later, Swift addressed the leak stating she was “telling the truth the whole” and that that proved it.

“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,” wrote Swift, a link to the World Health Organization days after it declared the Covid-19 pandemic.

The following day, Kardashian defended herself and her husband saying the issue Swift originally had was that he had “never called to ask for permission.”

“To be clear, the only issue I ever had around the situation was that Taylor lied through her publicist who stated that ‘Kanye never called to ask for permission,’” she wrote on X. “They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word ‘bitch’ was used without her permission.”

December 2023: Taylor Refers to Feud as “Career Death,” Calls Out Kim

Swift was named Person of the Year by Time in 2023 after the massive success of her Eras Tour. She gave her first sit down magazine interview in several years because of this honor, and in it, she recalled the rekindled feud as a “career death.”

“Make no mistake — my career was taken away from me,” she said in the interview, referring to the backlash she received after Kardashian leaked the phone call.

“You have a fully manufactured frame job, in an illegally recorded phone call, which Kim Kardashian edited and then put out to say to everyone that I was a liar,” she continued. “That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before. I moved to a foreign country. I didn’t leave a rental house for a year. I was afraid to get on phone calls. I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I went down really, really hard.”

Feb. 15, 2024: Kanye Says He’s Been Helpful to Taylor’s Career

After the Super Bowl, rumors circulated that Swift had West kicked out from the event. West later denied the rumors but also tried to atone with Swift and her fans. (As is now known, Swift’s boyfriend Travis Kelce was not only playing but won the big game.)

“To all Taylor Swift fans I’m not your enemy. Uuum I’m not your friend either though LOL,” he wrote in a since-deleted post.

“I’m sure I’ve been far more helpful to Taylor Swift’s career than harmful,” West wrote, after calling her and Beyoncé “huge inspirations” to other musicians. “Remember I was on Taylor’s side when Scooter bought her masters behind her back.”

Elsewhere in the post, West offered an explanation for why Swift is name-checked in his recent song “Carnival.”

“When I said that I’m the new Jesus bitch I wasn’t even thinking about Taylor Swift,” West wrote. “That was a whole line before but I appreciate the free promo. Lil Wayne actually mentions Travis [Kelce] on Vultures 2. This album is actually super positive and fun it’s all about triumphant.”

April 19, 2024: Taylor Releases “thanK you aIMee”

Eight years after the Kardashian leaked the phone call between West and Swift on her Snapchat, Swift had some more choice words for the reality star.

In a surprise-released batch of 15 songs that were part of her eleventh album The Tortured Poets Department, Swift included a song called “thanK you aIMee,” which has the letters KIM capitalized.

In it, she refers to “Aimee” as a bully. After spending the song screaming “fuck you Aimee” at the sky, Swift thanks the Kim stand-in for helping her heal and build something bigger than what “Aimee” destroyed.

Swift frames the song as if she’s thinking about an old school bully, but lines like “There’s a bronze spray-tanned statue of you,” or even ”And so I changed your name, and any real defining clues” aren’t fooling anyone.

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