clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s latest fight, explained

RecordingaArtists Kanye West and Taylor Swift attend the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 8, 2015, in Los Angeles, California.
RecordingaArtists Kanye West and Taylor Swift attend the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 8, 2015, in Los Angeles, California.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Mortal enemies are like beautiful kitchens: Some households have them, and when they belong to famous people, we're immediately more interested in them. Which makes public feuds between mortal enemies akin to fancy custom appliances and gleaming copper pots as far as the eye can see.

And there is no feud grander or more delirious than one between Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

On Thursday, the latest chapter in their saga unfolded.

During West's fashion show/album drop live event at Madison Square Garden, he dropped a verse about having sex with Swift because he believes he made her famous:

I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex

Why? I made that bitch famous

God damn

I made that bitch famous

The lyrics are from "Famous," one of the songs on West's new album, The Life of Pablo. They reference the infamous 2009 MTV Video Music Awards clash ("I'mma let you finish") between the two and claim that the incident made Swift a star. Never mind that she was already one of the biggest artists on the planet.

This did not go over well with Swift, who, through her publicist, spoke out against the rapper. West had said he called the singer for approval to use the line, but Swift denied it. (Meanwhile, the fact that West is married to Kim Kardashian, who famously got famous for having sex, adds a weird, adulterous layer to the situation.)

"Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single 'Famous’ on her Twitter account," her representative said. "She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message."

After Swift's response, West posted a few tweets implying that Swift was lying:

The last, but probably not final, word on the matter came from Swift's brother, who then posted a video to Instagram in which he throws a pair of Yeezys — shoes from West's fashion line — into the trash:

Getting a head start on some spring cleaning. Here we go again.

A video posted by Austin Swift (@austinkingsleyswift) on

Swift and West were getting along, or so we thought

The reason this flare-up between the two stars is getting massive attention is that even though they've had beef in the past, West and Swift have more recently been on civil, perhaps even friendly, terms. At the VMAs in August, Swift introduced West as he was about the accept the MTV Video Vanguard award:

"It seemed like everyone in the world knew about our infamous encounter at the VMAs," she said during the introduction. "But something you may not know is that Kanye West's album College Dropout is the very first album my brother and I ever bought. … 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."

She went on to call West her "friend," and said she was "honored" to present him with the award. It's unclear what changed between August and the present, or if Swift's pleasantries were said through gritted teeth. But there were a few whispers that Swift was upset that West, when he came onstage to accept the award, had gone off script (West rambled and even talked about a presidential run).

It's impossible not to recall Swift and West's infamous VMA clash. Is West using that moment as a marketing tool?

The fight between Swift and West dates back to 2009, when Swift won Best Female Video at the VMAs and West interrupted Swift's acceptance speech to tell her and everyone watching that he believed she didn't deserve the award. One "I'mma let you finish" later, it became the event that defined and connected the two artists:

And maybe reigniting his conflict with Swift was what West was going for. Leading up the release of The Life of Pablo, West had been acting more outrageous and more vocal than usual. On February 9, West tweeted that Bill Cosby was innocent without any explanation or context:

On that same day, he posted some weird tweets about Michael Jordan:

A week earlier, he started a Twitter feud with Wiz Khalifa over an apparent misunderstanding, a situation that eventually devolved into a discussion of whether or not West once enjoyed having his anus penetrated by ex-girlfriend Amber Rose. And after that feud? Rose, posed for a selfie with Kim Kardashian, making headlines all over the internet.

Kim and Amber Rose. (Instagram)

After Rihanna released her long-awaited album Anti on January 28, with little to no advance fanfare, and Beyoncé followed up less than two weeks later with a surprise single of her own and a bonkers Super Bowl performance to match, any artist would find it hard to top those two megastars and pry attention away from their projects. West, with an assist from Taylor Swift, may have just done it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.