It’s no secret Taylor Swift and Kanye West haven’t had the steadiest of relationships through the years. The pair’s bad blood first became news when the rapper ambushed Swift’s acceptance speech for Video of the Year at the 2009 MTV VMAs – which he later apologized for. But after years of tension and a long-awaited reconciliation, Swift and West are back to where they started, following the rapper’s February release of “Famous” off his The Life of Pablo album (which made jabs at the “New Romantics” crooner) and wife Kim Kardashian West‘s recent claims that Swift knew of West’s plans to release the track.
In West’s explosive speech at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, he addressed the controversy – and expressed he only has love for everyone. “People come up to me like, ‘Man, that’s right. Take down Taylor.’ Bro, I love y’all. That’s why I called her,” he said.
Yet on Oct. 6, an earlier recording of West’s song surfaced online that Swift (and Swifties) would likely find even more offensive: “I feel like Taylor Swift still owe me sex / I made that bitch famous,” West is heard rapping on the demo.
While the rest of the world is clamoring to make sense of all this, we’re taking a look back at the pair’s history, from the rapper’s now-infamous stage crash to this most recent move.
The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
The moment that started it all. When Swift was awarded the moon man for Best Female Video for “You Belong with Me” in 2009, West went onstage to interrupt the star’s acceptance speech, and instead sing praises for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”
West Addresses the Incident on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
“I immediately knew in the situation that it was wrong and it wasn’t a spectacle,” West said, also attributing the outburst to a mixture of “sincerity and alcohol” on Ellen. “It’s actually someone’s emotions that I stepped on. It was very, it was rude, period. I’d like to be able to apologize to her in person.”
West Eventually Apologizes to Swift
“Kanye did call me and he was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology,” the “Blank Space” singer told ABC Radio in 2009. “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 Releases a Song Inspired by West in 2010
Swift performed “Innocent” off her album Speak Now at the 2010 MTV VMAs. The song is said to be about the rapper: “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.”
West Takes Back the Apology in 2013
“I don’t have one regret. If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now,” he told the New York Times. “I have, as a human being, fallen to peer pressure.”
West and Swift Reunite at the 2015 Grammys
The pair were photographed together at the awards show, which sparked rumors of a potential collaboration that West was quick to humor in an interview with Ryan Seacrest. “She wants to get in the studio, and we’re definitely going to go in,” he said. “Any artist with an amazing point of view, perspective, fanbase, I’m down to get in the studio and work. I don’t discriminate.”
Swift Addresses Her Friendship with Kanye in Vanity Fair
“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,” she said in the magazine’s August 2015 issue. “We haven’t planned [any 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.”
Swift Presents West with MTV’s Video Vanguard Award in 2015
“I first met Kanye West six years ago – at this show, actually!” she joked while introducing West. “It seemed like everyone in the world knew about our infamous encounter at the VMAs. But something that you may not know is that Kanye West’s album College Dropout was the very first album my brother and I bought on iTunes when I was 12 years old. I have 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 I’mma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time!”
West Gifts Swift Flowers Post-VMAs
“Awwww Kanye sent me the coolest flowers!! #KanTay2020 #BFFs”, wrote the “Out of the Woods” singer on Instagram, poking fun at the rapper’s announcement that he’s planning on running for president in 2020 during his Video Vanguard Award acceptance speech.
West Debuts “Famous” at His February 2016 Yeezy Show
West’s “Famous,” off his album The Life of Pablo includes the aforementioned dig at Swift. Following backlash, the rapper took to Twitter, claiming that he had gotten permission from Swift to name-drop her following an hour-long phone conversation with the star.
Swift’s Squad Comes to the Pop Star’s Defense
Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Jaime King, among other members of Swift’s squad, took to social media to address West’s “Famous” lyric. The singer’s younger brother Austin even posted an Instagram video of himself “spring cleaning,” which showed the budding actor trashing his Yeezy 350 Boosts.
Swift Responds During Her Grammys Acceptance Speech
The singer got the last word (for now) when it came to the “Famous” incident. Upon accepting her Grammy for album of the year on Feb. 15, Swift indirectly addressed West’s “Famous” lyric while simultaneously delivering a super-empowering speech. “[A]s the first woman to win album of the year at the Grammys twice,” Swift said, “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 continued, “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. Thank you for this moment.”
Kim Kardashian West Says Swift Knew of the Infamous “Famous” Lyric All Along
“She totally approved that,” Mrs. West said in the July issue of GQ. “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— for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved.”
Swift Releases a Statement Following Kim’s Claims
A spokesperson for the “New Romantics” crooner was quick to comment on the matter. “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,” the statement started off. “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.”
Kanye Releases the “Famous” Music Video
Kanye released his NSFW music video for “Famous” – and, of course, it wasn’t without controversy.
The video also opened with a snippet of Swift and background audio from that fateful night at the MTV Video Music Awards. Then, inspired by Vincent Desiderio’s 2008 Sleep painting, naked sculptures resembling Swift, George W. Bush, Anna Wintour, Donald Trump, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Kanye, Kim Kardashian West, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlyn Jenner and Bill Cosby all lay naked, lumped together on a large bed with a singular bed sheet covering them.
Swift’s friend Lena Dunham slammed West for the video in a Facebook post. She wrote that while she has no beef with West personally, she strongly objected to the video and urged the rapper to avoid gender stereotypes and the objectification of women’s bodies. She called the music video “sickening” and “disturbing.”
Kardashian West Explains Why She Talked About Swift
On a July 2016 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the family discussed the longstanding feud between Kanye and Taylor in great detail, as well as Kanye’s controversial rant during his appearance on Saturday Night Live, where he was recorded backstage calling Taylor fake.
When West’s assistant called Kardashian West to let her know about the leaked audio recording from SNL, she got upset, though West didn’t seem too bothered. “My full-time job is your publicist,” she told her husband. “I care what people think.”
“Kanye says what he wants and he has no filter … and some people may not understand that,” Kardashian West added during her interview. “Usually I try to stay neutral and just give moral support.”
“I never talk s–t about anyone publicly, especially in interviews. But I was just like I had so had it,” she said “I wanted to defend him in it. She legitimately quote says, ‘As soon as I get on that Grammy red carpet I’m gonna tell all the press. Like I was in on it.’ ”
“And then she just didn’t like the reaction?” Kourtney asked,
“Yeah, and you know just another way to play the victim,” Kardashian West answered. “It definitely got her a lot of attention the first time,” – referencing when Kanye jumped on VMA stage – “I just don’t think he should be punished for it still to this day,” she continued.
“I feel like I’ve had it with people blatantly treating my husband a certain way and making him look a certain way, and I’m gonna say how I feel,” Kardashian West said during her interview. “Kanye is always so honest and speaks his mind. And you know, when we were first dating, people would always talk s–t and he always had my back. At this point, I really don’t give a f— so I’ll do whatever to protect my husband.”
She then went on to add that Swift even helped West rewrite the lyrics within the song.
“I’m so glad that you said the truth,” Kourtney told her sister. “Yeah, I’m just speaking the truth,” Kardashian West replied.
At the end of the episode, Kardashian West sat down with momager Kris Jenner to discuss the controversial interview and issues surrounded it. Jenner tried to play peacemaker, asking, “What would happen if you just called Taylor up and say ‘What happened? How did this go so south?’ I guess I don’t understand the motivation to flip … maybe she took it the wrong way. My advice would to be give Taylor Swift a call.”
“Thank you for your lovely advice,” Kardashian West told her mother, “but I’m not going to take it.”
Kim Releases Video Footage of the Phone Call
Immediately following that episode of KUWTK, Kim took to Snapchat to provide the proof, sharing a series of videos of that phone call between West and Swift, discussing the “Famous” lyrics – as well as their history.
“It’s like a compliment,” Swift is heard saying in the video after West reads the lyrics to her (which include, “For all my Southside n—– that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex”).
“What I give a f— is you as a person, and as a friend, I want things that make you feel good,” Kanye said, and thanked Swift “for being like, so cool about it” after she told him she appreciates the “heads up” on the lyrics.
“I never would’ve expected you to like tell me about a line in your song,” Swift said. “I mean, I don’t think anybody would listen to that and be like, ‘Oh, that’s a real diss.’ You gotta tell the story that way that it happened to you and the way you experienced it.”
She went on to add, “If people ask me about it, look, I think it would be great for me to be like, ‘He called me and told me before it came out … Joke’s on you, guys. We’re fine.’ ”
If you’re wondering why Kardashian West felt the need to jump in, “Kim is super loyal to Kanye and will always do anything to have his back,” a source tells PEOPLE. “She is even more protective of him than she is of herself. She thinks he’s misunderstood and couldn’t stand that people thought he was a liar.”
The Internet immediately seemed to side with Kim, and #KimExposedTaylorParty started trending.
“Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that bitch’ 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 bitch’ in front of the entire world,” she wrote in a note.
“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,” Swift continued. She captioned the post, “That moment when Kanye West secretly records your phone call, then Kim posts it on the Internet.”
The Squad Steps in – Again
Luckily, Swift has backup in the form of her A-list squad, who jumped in to defend her.
Selena Gomez tweeted, “There are more important things to talk about… Why can’t people use their voice for something that f—— matters? Truth is last thing we need right now is hate, in any form.”
Then, Ruby Rose, another member of Swift’s squad, chimed in with: “Yo Khloe I thought you were rad when I met you but this is awful and this is a 19 year old girl. Nobody likes being bullied or made to feel worthless.. Yet so many people will go above and beyond to make others feel that way.”
Martha Hunt also tweeted, “It’s pathetic how quick our culture is to sensationalize a fabricated story.. Take interest in the real problems going on. Spread love.”
Kanye West Claims Victory in the Feud
“I’m so glad my wife has Snapchat, ’cause now y’all can know the truth,” West told the crowd at a Drake concert he crashed on Wednesday night. After the duo performed their collaboration “Pop Style,” West couldn’t resist bringing up the infamous #KimExposedTaylorParty snaps.
“And can’t nobody talk s––– about Ye no more!” he said before launching into his “Famous” verse about Swift.
West appears to move on … sort of.
It seems like West is tired of the whole feud. In his 2016 VMAs speech, he rejected the idea that he was trying to “take down Taylor.” West said that he has nothing but love: “That’s why I called her.”
The day after the awards, he tweeted a photo of someone wearing a shirt that showed half of Swift’s 1989 cover and half of his own My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cover.
An Earlier — More Controversial — Version of “Famous” Leaks
The song that started it all could have potentially started a lot more if it was released the way it was initially recorded.
In early October, an earlier recording of the song surfaced online, and the controversial lyric that targets Swift sounds even more controversial: “I feel like Taylor Swift still owe me sex / I made that bitch famous,” he raps. He then repeats part of the verse but subs in his ex Amber Rose’s name. “I feel like Amber Rose still owe me sex / Why? I made that bitch famous / Not really, but somewhat famous,” he continues.
A source close to the situation tells PEOPLE exclusively the demo is revealing. “Now you know why Kim only posted an edited three minutes of video footage to Snapchat and not the hour-long conversation that they had,” says the source.