At the MTV Video Music Awards on September 13, 2009, Kanye West stole the mic from country pop singer Taylor Swift just as she was set to make her Best Female Video acceptance speech. "Taylor Swift, I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time...one of the best videos of all time!" In the 10 years following, those words have been memed, mocked, and forever burned into the brains of anyone who has ever listened to music.
Swift was just 19 at the time, and while a popular singer on her second studio album, Fearless, her star would rise exponentially after the iconic — and scarring — VMA moment. West, the acclaimed College Dropout rapper who wouldn't date Kim Kardashian for another three years, would be forever associated with the interruption. Many saw the move as an example of West's arrogance. Who was he to say who deserved the award?
What could have gone down as a flash-in-the-pan awkward celebrity encounter continues to have ramifications even a decade later. Not only did the incident have a massive influence over both parties’ public personas, it also directly infiltrated their work. Imagine a world where West had let Swift finish: Fans on either side of the feud would be missing out on stand-out tracks from both artists, from “Famous” to “Look What You Made Me Do.” Then again, had things gone differently, maybe we would have been treated to a Swift/West collaboration instead.
As we reflect on the 10 years since the infamous moment, here is everything that happened as a result of West taking the stage that night.
August 2009: Beyoncé & Taylor Swift Are Nominated For VMAs
Bey's track "Single Ladies" video receives nine nominations, including Video of the Year, Best Pop Video, Best Choreography and Best Female Video. Swift's "You Belong With Me" is only nominated in the Best Female Video category.
September 13, 2009: Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift At The VMAs
Swift's "You Belong With Me" takes home the Best Female Video prize, and West takes the stage. Later that night, Beyoncé wins the Video of the Year award, and invites Swift on stage with her to give her acceptance speech.
Celebrities immediately rush to Swift's defense.
"Fuck you Kanye West," wrote Katy Perry, Swift's soon-to-be frenemy, on Twitter. "It's like you stepped on a kitten."
Pink tweeted "Kanye West is the biggest piece of shit on earth. Quote me."
September 15, 2009: Kanye West Sort Of Apologizes To Taylor Swift
Days after the incident, West posts an apology on his personal blog, though he doesn't seem to change much about what he said the night of the VMAs. He writes: "Beyonce's video was the best of this decade!!! I'm Still Happy for Taylor!!!!" He reportedly privately reaches out to Swift on September 15.
September 15, 2009: Taylor Swift Accepts Kanye West's Apology
"Kanye did call me and he was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology," she explained to the outlet. "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."
November 7, 2009: Taylor Swift References Kanye West On Saturday Night Live
"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 sings during her Saturday Night Live monologue, the first time she hosted the show. "But there’s nothing more to say ’cause everything’s okay/I’ve got security lining the stage."
October 25, 2010: Taylor Swift Releases Speak Now & Song About Kanye West
Swift's third studio album Speak Now features a song called "Mean," but it's actually "Innocent" that Swift claims is about her interruptor. With lines like "time turns flames to embers/You'll have new Septembers," Swift's song is one of forgiveness. ("Mean," meanwhile, is about a group of people.)
"I think a lot of people expected me to write a song about [Kanye West]," Swift explained to New York Magazine. "But for me it was important to write a song to him."
May 2013: Jay-Z Calls Out Taylor Swift In A Track
Though it's unclear what Bey's husband Jay-Z is specifically referring to, he does reference Swift on his song "100$ Bill."
"That cheese made us constipated couldn't tell us shit," he raps on The Great Gatsby soundtrack. "Took that,Taylor Swift to a hundred fucking million, bitch."
July 2013: Audio Surfaces Of Kanye West Talking About The VMAs Drama
Audio uncovered by Gawker on West out to dinner in New York City reveals his thoughts on the situation."When I heard Eminem's verse on the Drake shit, I went back and rewrote my shit for two days. I canceled appointments to rewrite! I fuckin' care! You know what I'm saying? And that's what I'm saying," West allegedly says in the leaked audio. "Because I did that, Taylor Swift cannot win over Beyoncé! Because I wrote my verse in two days, Taylor Swift cannot beat Beyoncé. As long as I'm alive! And if I'm alive, kill me then! Kill me then! As long as I'm alive, you gon' have to deal with it. 'Cause there ain't gonna be no more motherfucking Elvises with no James Browns."
October 29, 2013: Kanye West Still Thinks Beyoncé Had The Best Video Of All Time
"I would not want some crazy drunk rock star cutting my daughter off also," he said on Seacrest's KIIS-FM morning show. "But my daughter would 100-percent also be like, 'Yes Beyoncé did have the best video.' That's what my daughter would do!"
(North, care to comment?!)
November 2013: Taylor Swift Has Not Forgotten Kanye West
A profile with Vulture reveals that Swift keeps a photo of West's stage crashing during her VMAs acceptance speech in her Nashville home. The caption? "Life is full of little interruptions."
February 8, 2015: Taylor Swift & Kanye West Make Up At The Grammys
Swift and West publicly bury the hatchet by getting chummy at the award ceremony. West later surprises Beck with an interruption when Beck wins Album of the Year over, you guessed it, Beyonce. Days later, Swift joins West for dinner in NYC, fueling rumors that the two are working together on new music.
August 30, 2015: Taylor Swift Gives Kanye West VMA’s Vanguard Award
"To all the other winners tonight, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all-time," Swift says in her speech.
February 11, 2016: Kanye West Releases The Track "Famous"
Swift is named in West's song, which he debuts with his Life of Pablo album at the Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
"I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous," West raps on the track.
When Swifties come for West over the lyric, West claps back on Twitter, and claims that both Swift and his wife Kim Kardashian approved the message before its release.
February 12, 2016: Taylor Swift Claims She Did Not Approve Kanye West’s "Famous" Lyric
"Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single 'Famous' on her Twitter account," a representative for Swift said at the time. "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.'"
Austin, Swift's brother, makes his displeasure known as well by tossing his Yeezys in the trash in an Instagram video. "Here we go again," Austin writes.
February 15, 2016: Taylor Swift Shades Kanye West In Grammy Speech
"I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," Swift 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 will look around and you will know — it was you, and the people who love you, who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world."
June 2016: Kim Kardashian Claims She Has Receipts & Taylor Swift Responds
After the interview hits the internet, Swift’s reps fire back with a response.
“Taylor does not hold anything against Kim Kardashian as she recognizes the pressure Kim must be under and that she is only repeating what she has been told by Kanye West,” claims Swift’s rep. “However, that does not change the fact that much of what Kim is saying is incorrect. Kanye West and Taylor only spoke once on the phone while she was on vacation with her family in January of 2016 and they have never spoken since. Taylor has never denied that conversation took place. It was on that phone call that Kanye West also asked her to release the song on her Twitter account, which she declined to do.”
June 28, 2016: Kanye West Releases The “Famous” Video With A Naked Taylor Swift
In the “Famous” video, a lifelike figure of Swift can be seen, naked, in bed with figures of other nude celebrities like Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, and Amber Rose. West and Kardashian are also naked in the video. Sources close to Swift allege that Swift is “furious” with West and likens the video to being “assaulted.” She reportedly likes tweets that say as much.
July 18, 2016: Kim Kardashian Releases Said Receipts
Kardashian shares a heavily edited video which shows West telling Swift about the lyrics “I feel like me at Taylor might still have sex” on Snapchat, after discussing the situation with sisters on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
In a tweet, Kardashian writes: “Wait it's legit National Snake Day?!?!? They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days,” adding a ton of snake emojis to the message.
Immediately, fans of Kardashian and West begin spamming Swift’s social media with snake emojis and calling her a liar.
July 18, 2016: Taylor Swift Publishes Iconic Note About Being “Excluded” From This Narrative
"Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me 'that bitch' in his song?" Swift writes on Instagram. "It doesn't exist because it never happened. You don't get to control someone's emotional response to being called 'that bitch' in front of the entire world.”
"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. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009."
October 2016: An Even More Explicit Version Of “Famous” Leaks
A different version of “Famous” leaks on the internet and is even more cutting to Swift than the original.
“I feel like Taylor might still owe me sex,” raps West in this version.
January 2017: Buzzfeed Writes An Article About Taylor Swift, Calling Her An Eternal “Victim”
“How Taylor Swift Played The Victim For A Decade And Made Her Entire Career,” reads a Buzzfeed headline.
August 25, 2017: Taylor Swift Releases “Look What You Made Me Do,” Her First Single Off Album Reputation
After teasing plenty of serpent imagery in her promotional material, Swift releases “Look What You Made Me Do,” a song about rising from the ashes after being cancelled as a new version of herself. Many believe that a line about a “tilted stage” refers to one West performed on while on tour. Sources claim that the Wests find Swift’s music “pathetic.”
November 10, 2017: Taylor Swift Seemingly Writes A Lot About Kanye West On Reputation
In the track “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Swift talks about taking an “axe to a mended fence” after she was betrayed by someone she thought she had worked things out with. It is widely believed to be about West. On “Call It What You Want To,” Swift talks about bringing a “knife to a gun fight,” and all the liars calling her one. The general thesis of the album is that Swift’s is rehabilitating her reputation, which was torn down at the hand’s is garbage post the previous year’s scandal, but she’s working through it.
March 2018: Taylor Swift Talks About The Snake Situation On Tour
Swift declines to do interviews for her Reputation album or tour. The opening day of her tour, Swift reveals that getting called a snake on social media really hurt.
“A lot of people were calling me a lot of things on social media,” she told the crowd. “And I went through some really low times for a while because of it. I went through some times when I didn’t know if I was going to get to do this anymore.”
March 2019: Taylor Swift Declares She Really Is A Snake
“While it may be born from having been raised to be a polite young lady, this can contribute to some of your life’s worst regrets if someone takes advantage of this trait in you,” Swift writes in an essay for ELLE about lessons she learned before 30. “Grow a backbone, trust your gut, and know when to strike back. Be like a snake — only bite if someone steps on you."
June 2019: Taylor Swift Attacks Scooter Braun For Role In Kimye Feud
In June, Scooter Braun — manager of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and at one point Kanye West — purchases Big Machine Records, and therefore Swift’s masters. The singer is livid.
“All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at [Braun’s] hands for years,” Swift writes on Tumblr. “Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked.”
August 2019: Taylor Swift Talks Cancel Culture In Wake Of Kanye West Drama
“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience,” she told the outlet. “I don’t think there are that many people who can actually understand what it’s like to have millions of people hate you very loudly...When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being. You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, Kill yourself.”
August 23, 2019: Taylor Swift Releases Lover
Swift’s latest album Lover features imagery of snakes turning into butterflies — a symbol of Swift burying the hatchet with the people she previously feuded with? Eh. On “I Forgot That You Existed,” Swift sings of an ex who “got out some popcorn” while her “rep” was going down. On “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince,” Swift praises a current love whom she leans on as she watches the “bad guys” high-five. Read between the lines, and it’s possible that these characters all tie back to West.
August 23, 2019: Taylor Swift Reveals Diary Entry From That Infamous Night
Proving things come full circle, a deluxe version of Swift’s album Lover includes a diary entry highlighting the moment West crashed the VMAs stage.
"The things that can change in a week," Swift wrote. "If you had told me that one of the biggest stars in music was going to jump on stage and announce that he thought I shouldn’t have won on live television, I would’ve said, 'That stuff doesn’t really happen in real life.'"
If only 19-year-old Swift knew exactly how real things would get.
August 29, 2019: Kim Kardashian Teases Kanye West’s New Album
One week after Lover drops, Kardashian posts a tracklist for Jesus Is King, a West album reportedly dropping on September 27. From the track titles, the album looks like it’s mostly about West’s relationship with his faith, which means it could be a totally feud-less release. We’ll have to wait and see.
March 21, 2020: The Full Kanye West Video Is Released, Which Proves Taylor Swift Wasn't Lying
Just over a month after the release of her Netflix documentary Miss Americana, the full version of West's phone call to Swift is released anonymously online, revealing that Swift was honest about not knowing the full extent of West's "Famous" song lyrics.