'I'ma Let You Finish!' 10 Years After Kanye West Crashed Taylor Swift's VMAs Speech, Everything They've Said About the Incident
The mic grab that launched 1,000 feuds
September 2009: Four Words Heard 'Round the World
In 2009, when Swift was in the middle of accepting her award for best female video for "You Belong With Me," West stormed the stage and took the mic from the stunned star.
"Yo Taylor," West began, "I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!"
At the time, it was reported that Swift was seen crying backstage after the incident, though she had to quickly pull it together to perform the song that won her the Moonman to begin with.
September 2009: Swift Addresses the Incident Moments After
When asked about the incident backstage at the awards, Swift told reporters what was going on in her head when the whole thing went down. "Well, I was standing stage and I was really excited because I had just won the award, and then I was really excited because Kanye West was on the stage and then I wasn't so excited anymore after that."
When asked about hard feelings, she said, "I don't know him and I've never met him ... I don't know him and I don't want to start anything because I've had a great night tonight."
September 2009: West Writes a Blog Post Moments After the Incident
West wrote a blog post (originally in all caps) addressing the situation as the show was still airing. He apologized to Swift, but stood his ground about her being undeserving of the award.
"I'm sooooo sorry to Taylor Swift and her fans and her mom," he began. "I spoke to her mother right after and she said the same thing my mother would've said. She is very talented! I like the lyrics about being a cheerleader and she's in the bleachers! I'm in the wrong for going on stage and taking away from her moment!"
The rapper continued, "Beyoncé's video was the best of this decade!!!! I'm sorry to my fans if I let you guys down!!!! I'm sorry to my friends at MTV. I will apologize to Taylor 2mrw. Welcome to the real world!!!! Everybody wanna booooo me but I'm a fan of real pop culture!!! No disrespect but we watchin' the show at the crib right now cause ... well you know!!!! I'm still happy for Taylor!!!! Boooyaaawwww!!!! You are very very talented!!! I gave my awards to Outkast when they deserved it over me ... That's what it is!!!!!!! I'm not crazy y'all, i'm just real. Sorry for that!!! I really feel bad for Taylor and I'm sincerely sorry!!! Much respect!!!!!"
He deleted that post, then said, "I feel like Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents when he messed up everything and Robert De Niro asked him to leave. That was Taylor's moment and I had no right in any way to take it from her. I am truly sorry."
September 2009: West Breaks Down on Jay Leno
Kanye sat down for an interview with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.
Leno didn't shy away from asking about the incident, which had happened the night before. West said, "It's been extremely difficult. I just — just dealing with the fact that I hurt someone, or took anything away from a talented artist, or from anyone, because I only wanted to help people. You know, my entire life, I've only wanted to give and do something that I felt was right, and I immediately knew in this situation that it was wrong and it wasn't a spectacle. It's actually someone's emotions that I stepped on and it was rude, period. I'd like to be able to apologize to her in person."
Leno asked West, "When did you know you were wrong? Afterwards? When you were doing it?"
West replied, "As soon as I gave the mic back to her and then she didn't keep going."
Leno framed his next question about West's mom, Donda West, who passed away two years prior to the incident. He asked, "What do you think she would've said about this? Would she be disappointed in this? Would she give you a lecture?"
A visibly upset West replied, "Yeah, you know, obviously I deal with hurt. So many celebrities, they never take the time off and I've never taken the time off ... And I'm just ashamed that my hurt caused someone else's hurt. My dream of what an award show was supposed to be caused ... And I don't try to justify it because I was just in the wrong. That's period. But I need to, after this, take some time off and analyze how I'm gonna make it through the rest of this life, how I'm gonna improve."
September 2009: Swift Says She Would Talk to West
Swift also addressed the incident on The View, where she said, "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! Cool haircut. What are you doing there?' " Swift continued, "And then 'Ouch,' and then, 'I guess I'm not gonna get to thank the fans.' "
The hosts asked Taylor if she would want to meet with West, and the singer said, "Sure! I mean, he has not personally reached out or anything, but ... if he wanted to say hi ..."
September 2010: Swift Debuts 'Innocent' and Alludes to the Speech
Swift appeared on the VMAs the following year and performed a song about West. Her performance began with a video of the incident and included her singing, "It's all right, just wait and see / Your string of lights are still bright to me / Oh, who you are is not where you've been / You're still an innocent."
In case you still weren't convinced that the song was about West, Swift also said, "You're 32 and still growing up now" which is, in fact, how old West was at the 2009 awards.
September 2010: Swift Tells New York Magazine 'It Was Important to Write a Song to Him'
In an interview after her 2010 VMAs performance, Swift said of her decision to rehash the incident through song, "I think a lot of people expected me to write a song about him. But for me it was important to write a song to him."
She also explained, "It doesn't really add anything good if I start victimizing myself and complaining about things. Because I'm proud of that performance at the VMAs last year, where my fans helped me get through it. And there was a lot that went down backstage that I will always be thankful for, and the fans in the subway know exactly what happened that night. I feel everything. I've never had this thick skin that can't be … It's not like I am bulletproof in any sense of the word."
October 2010: West Tells Ellen He's 'a Soldier of Culture'
He told DeGeneres that after the incident he "left the country, stopped doing music all together" and traveled to Japan, then Rome, then Hawaii in an attempt to stay out of the spotlight. West said that his break was much needed, reiterating what he said to Jay Leno about continuing to work after his mother's passing.
He expressed remorse for his actions, but defended himself while explaining why he went on stage. The rapper said, "I feel like in some ways I'm a soldier of culture and I realize that no one wants that to be my job, and I'll never go on stage again, I'll never sit in an awards show again, but will I feel convicted about things that really meant stuff to culture, that constantly get denied for years and years and years and years? I'm sorry, I will. I cannot lie about it in order to sell records."
Before appearing on the show, Kanye had also tweeted in September 2010, ""I'm sorry, Taylor," he wrote. "We're both artists, and the media and managers are trying to get between us. She deserves the apology more than anyone."
November 2010: West Walks Back His Apology
At a release party for his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West walked back on his apology saying, "Taylor never came to my defense in any interview. And [she] rode the wave and rode it and rode it."
November 2010: Matt Lauer Addresses the Incident in an Interview with West
West sat down with Lauer to talk about his 2005 outburst against President George W. Bush, but ended up also addressing the 2009 incident.
Lauer wanted to know how West felt after being accused of racism after the incident.
West said of the interview, which included a clip of the moment he interrupted Swift, "I feel very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused."
January 2013: Swift Pokes Fun at the Mic Grab at the People's Choice Awards
Olivia Munn was tasked with presenting Swift with the award for favorite country artist when she decided to have a little fun. She looked miserable as she clung to Swift's award before letting the singer give her speech. Swift simply said, "This always happens."
June 2013: West Has 'No Regrets'
West told the New York Times, "It's only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It's only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That's all it is."
He added, "I don't have one regret."
August 2013: Swift Jokes About the Moment with Ed Sheeran
In 2013, Swift alluded to the infamous moment when she sent her pal and then-tourmate, Ed Sheeran, some homemade jam. Attached to the jar was a note that read, "Yo Ed — I'm really happy 4 you and I'm gonna let you finish but this is the best JAM OF ALL TIME. —T"
August 2013: She Laughs About It Again
That summer, Swift tweeted to her fans, "Two VMA nominations!! If you vote and get us one, I promise to keep a firmer grip on the mic this time." She went home with the award for best female video and her speech went off without a hitch.
October 2013: West Jokes About the Incident with Ryan Seacrest
West admitted on Ryan Seacrest's KISS-FM radio show in 2013, "You know what? I would not want some crazy drunk rock star cutting my daughter off also." He did add that young daughter North would also "100 percent also be like, 'Yes Beyoncé did have the best video.' That's what my daughter would do!"
August 2015: Swift Recreates the Famous Moment
Swift alluded to the moment six years later when she presented the Video Vanguard Award to West at the 2015 VMAs. She cheekily joked, "So I guess I have to say to all the other winners tonight ... I'm really happy for you, and I'ma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the best careers of all time," Swift said as the crowd erupted into cheers.
"And right now," she continued, "I am honored to present the 2015 Video Vanguard Award to my friend, Kanye West."
February 2016: West Says, 'I Made That B---- Famous'
Things seemed cool between the two for a while. There was even talk of a collaboration, but Swift was not pleased when she heard West's new track "Famous." In the song, he rapped, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b---- famous."
The insinuation, of course, is that Swift's fame grew because of the 2009 interruption.
West insisted that Swift approved the lyric, though reps for Swift said, "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 b---- famous.' "
February 2016: Swift Takes a Jab at West at the Grammys While Accepting Album of the Year
In what can only be described as a subtweet IRL, Swift shaded West for taking credit for her fame.
Swift said during her speech, "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."
Swift lingered on the word "fame" and then continued, "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 greatest feeling in the world."
July 2016: Kim Kardashian West Gets Involved
We won't go too far down the rabbit hole with the Kimye v. Swift situation, but when Kim Kardashian West released edited audio on Snapchat of Swift seemingly agreeing to the lyrics of "Famous," Swift spoke out in a statement.
She wrote, "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 excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be part of, since 2009."
It's the last time Swift directly mentioned the incident.
May 2018: West Mentions Swift in an Interview About Mental Health
In a 2018 interview with Charlamagne tha God, West cited the "Taylor Swift moment" while talking about the factors that contributed to his 2016 mental breakdown and subsequent hospitalization. He said that the lack of radio play for his album, Life of Pablo, took a toll on him.
While West certainly pointed to other factors that led to his hospitalization, he did name Swift directly.
"To put that same amount, if not more, work into a piece of work, and then you're used to it coming out like Graduation, where everything is everywhere, you know, it's frustrating," West said. "And really, ever since the Taylor Swift moment it just never had been the same, the connection with radio. It's like, whatever power that be, it was much harder."
It's the last time West has mentioned the incident directly.
August 2019: Swift Releases an Old Diary Entry that Focuses on the Incident
It wouldn't be a Taylor Swift album announcement without the star adding a few extra goodies for the fans. On Aug. 23, the date of her Lover album release, the singer also dropped four unique deluxe album packages containing Swift's journal entries, handwritten lyrics and archived photos.
One Twitter user posted a snapshot of a journal entry Swift wrote back in September 2009 about the incident and how surreal it felt to have gone through it on live television.
"Aah… the things that can change in a week," the entry began. "Let's just say, if you had told me that Kanye West would have been the number one focus of my week, the media, and my part in the VMAs. I would've looked at you cross-eyed."
"If you had told me that I would win the award I was nominated for, I wouldn't have believed you. And if you had told me that one of the biggest stars in music was going to jump up onstage 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,'" she continued.
The entry ends with, "Well… apparently …. It does."