Despite our collective best efforts, the Taylor Swift-Kanye West feud remains something of a lingering infection of the American musical consciousness. The initial occurrence was dramatic, certainly, and yet no matter how badly we try to purge ourselves, we can never quite stop it from periodically flaring up. Swift herself shed some light on her long, largely unwanted entanglement with the rap star this week, talking to Rolling Stone in a lengthy interview about all the ways West worked his way into her confidences after their infamous confrontation at the 2009 VMAs—and then proceeded to blow that confidence up all over again, to the point where she ended up releasing pretty much a whole damn album (and one extremely sonically embarrassing fake phone call to herself) about the ordeal.
But while the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now, she can dish on what, exactly, went down between her and West, and specifically the set of circumstances that played out in 2015, when West released his song “Famous,” and then, after Swift protested her inclusion in it, his wife released audio of her signing off on at least one of its lines. (“Me and Taylor might still have sex,” which West followed with “Why? I made that bitch famous.”) In her own, Swiftian words:
The world didn’t understand the context and the events that led up to it. Because nothing ever just happens like that without some lead-up. Some events took place to cause me to be pissed off when he called me a bitch. That was not just a singular event. Basically, I got really sick of the dynamic between he and I. And that wasn’t just based on what happened on that phone call and with that song—it was kind of a chain reaction of things.
I started to feel like we reconnected, which felt great for me—because all I ever wanted my whole career after that thing happened in 2009 was for him to respect me. When someone doesn’t respect you so loudly and says you literally don’t deserve to be here—I just so badly wanted that respect from him, and I hate that about myself, that I was like, “This guy who’s antagonizing me, I just want his approval.” But that’s where I was. And so we’d go to dinner and stuff. And I was so happy, because he would say really nice things about my music. It just felt like I was healing some childhood rejection or something from when I was 19. But the 2015 VMAs come around. He’s getting the Vanguard Award. He called me up beforehand—I didn’t illegally record it, so I can’t play it for you. But he called me up, maybe a week or so before the event, and we had maybe over an hourlong conversation, and he’s like, “I really, really would like for you to present this Vanguard Award to me, this would mean so much to me,” and went into all the reasons why it means so much, because he can be so sweet. He can be the sweetest. And I was so stoked that he asked me that. And so I wrote this speech up, and then we get to the VMAs and I make this speech and he screams, “MTV got Taylor Swift up here to present me this award for ratings!” [His exact words: “You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award ’cause it got them more ratings?”] And I’m standing in the audience with my arm around his wife, and this chill ran through my body. I realized he is so two-faced. That he wants to be nice to me behind the scenes, but then he wants to look cool, get up in front of everyone and talk shit. And I was so upset. He wanted me to come talk to him after the event in his dressing room. I wouldn’t go. So then he sent this big, big thing of flowers the next day to apologize. And I was like, “You know what? I really don’t want us to be on bad terms again.”
Swift goes on to say she was genuinely touched when West called to clear the first of the two lines about her. Then the song came out, and the second line apparently soured the relationship for good.
Swift—whose latest album, the far-more-stripped-down Lover, came out last month—didn’t just talk about West in the interview, instead dipping into all of the various public indignities that led her, in 2016, to somehow transform into the 26-year-old evil stepmother of the pop music world. That includes her then-reluctance to openly discuss politics and her worry that, given how many people were telling her, every day, that they hated her, adding her political voice to an issue might only make it worse. (“It’s a very powerful thing when you legitimately feel like numbers have proven that pretty much everyone hates you. Like, quantifiably. That’s not me being dramatic.”) She also discussed her anger at former label owner Scott Borchetta, who sold off the rights to her first six albums to enemy Scooter Braun, referring to it as going from “feeling like you’re being looked at as a daughter to this grotesque feeling of ‘Oh, I was actually his prized calf that he was fattening up to sell to the slaughterhouse that would pay the most.’” (Swift did not declare whether or not she was being dramatic here.)
She also talked about Game Of Thrones and Fall Out Boy, because even though she sometimes gives off the impression of being some sort of ageless, unkillable icon of Modern American Pop, Taylor Swift is also a person who is 29. (For the record, she seems to have thought the finale was about as it good as it could be, all things considered, and, to the surprise of literally no one, identifies with Daenerys most of all.)