Two of the music industry’s biggest names have been taking swings at one another about some tricky issues of sex, satire, and success.
The disagreement hinges on a line in the rapper Kanye West’s 2016 song, Famous: “For all my Southside niggas that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.”
The singer he was referencing, Taylor Swift, seemed to respond to the song during her Grammy awards acceptance speech in February, warning young women that others might try to take credit for their success. “I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will to try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments, or your fame,” she said, advising them to “just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you.”
The dispute between the two celebrities has been bubbling for a while. In 2009, West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV’s Video Music Awards to imply that Beyoncé should have won. He then spent years apologizing, something he may believe has contributed to the singer’s success. The video for Famous shows a long line of wax figures of sleeping, naked, famous people, with Swift positioned next to West.
West has claimed that he politely phoned Swift and asked her whether she was ok with the line—a point Swift hasn’t conceded. Now, Kim Kardashian West, a reality TV star and Kanye West’s wife, has released a video of parts of the call. The jerky, chopped together segments released on Snapchat show West reading out the first two lines, but not the third—the one in which he claims Swift’s success as his own:
In the video, West says he wants the best for Swift and their friendship, and she says it’s “nice” of him to call. She agrees to take the line about West wanting to sleep with her as “a compliment.”
But Swift responded by noting that both the “bitch” insult and the claim to be behind her success are absent from the taped call. “Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that bitch’ in his song?” she wrote. “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.”