A summary of events leading up to the Snapchat bomb Kim Kardashian dropped on the Taylor Swift camp on July 17, 2016: Kanye West, Kim’s husband, releases his seventh solo album The Life of Pablo initially by way of a massive listening party at Madison Square Garden. One of the tracks, the Rihanna and Swizz Beats-featuring “Famous,” contains a line that shocks tuned-in Kanye lovers and haters alike: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.” Listeners are left helplessly asking ourselves: is the Kanye-Taylor feud back on? Did Kanye just throw away the miraculous PR redemption he spent years getting out of his former nemesis, and by extension the entire world, for the sake of a nasty punchline? Taylor has to be in on it, right? Next, Taylor’s brother responds on Instagram, showing himself throwing away a pair of Kanye’s coveted Adidas Yeezy sneakers, hinting that the Swifts and Wests are back at war. Kanye issues a string of tweets claiming, in response to the public outcry against his “Famous” bar, that he had a conversation with Taylor in which she consented to the inclusion of the controversial lyrics. Taylor’s camp responds, claiming that not only didn’t she grant permission for the use of the line, but that she “cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message.” Taylor then very directly indirectly responds to “Famous” in her acceptance speech at the Grammys a few days after The Life of Pablo’s release, warning her fans of those “who will try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.” Kanye performs on SNL two days later, and a backstage off-the-record recording emerges in which he refers to Taylor as “Fake-ass.” Third-parties start to take sides, with many claiming they’ve got reputable sources to confirm Taylor’s dishonesty. Months pass, and Kim Kardashian covers GQ magazine, and as expected takes her husband’s side and claims the only thing preventing video evidence from emerging and exposing Taylor’s lie is threatened legal action from the Swift camp. This week, Kim posts onto her Snapchat small excerpts of what is rumored to be that hour-long permission conversation between Kanye and Taylor. That same night, Taylor responds on Instagram, claiming that the use of the word “bitch” was not approved. Read the Snapchat transcript here.
If Taylor Swift is right, and Kanye didn’t in fact run the lyric “I made that bitch famous” by her (it’s unclear if this is in fact true if you read the entire excerpted conversation), she has the right to feel angry, frustrated, and belittled. The line, like many in rap, sends a misogynistic message to its listeners, and it’s clear that Taylor Swift came to her unprecedented superstardom through her own hard-work and pop sensibilities. She’s also right to feel violated by the Wests’ Snapchat antics; you cannot in the state of California record someone without their consent. It’s unclear whether or not Kanye and Kim will somehow evade legal ramifications through some mastermind maneuvering (maybe they were in some place where California law or something like it doesn’t apply), but the law exists where it exists for a reason: it’s messed up to invade someone’s privacy. As a Kanye fan, I am tempted to take the cliché Taylor-Hater position and say that she benefitted greatly from the feud’s inaugural scandal at the 2009 VMAs, and that she secretly loves reaping the benefits that being the controversial black rapper’s young, cute white pop star victim provides – but I owe her the benefit of the doubt. When in her Instagram letter she says, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I never asked to be a part of, since 2009,” she deserves our trust that she was deeply wounded by Kanye’s drunken interruption, and just wanted to do her own thing. But it’s 2016, and that simply doesn’t hold true anymore. Taylor Swift got greedy, and she did ask to be a part of this war.
We hear in the fuzziest portion of the video Taylor mentioning “It made her famous,” which is consistent with Kanye’s tweet in which he claims that Taylor came up with the line at a dinner with a mutual friend. As she writes in her instagram post, nowhere in the video we’ve seen does Kanye ask for permission to refer to her as a “bitch.” Kanye committed the very same misogyny that hip-hop artists have time and time again failed to get rid of since the genre’s conception, but this is Kanye’s only crime, and while it’s a serious one, it’s also one that Taylor Swift has never publicly criticized; she’s even expressed (in what the temporarily suppressed Kanye-stan inside me once saw as shameless pandering) her love of Future’s Dirty Sprite 2, an album that fails to address any woman as anything but a “bitch” or “hoe.” Taylor accuses Kim and Kanye of “character assassination,” an allegation that implies they’ve made an effort to unjustly destroy her reputation, and therein lies her biggest misstep in dealing with the fallout of Kim’s snaps. Sure, maybe Taylor was truly heartbroken upon the world reveal of a line she didn’t realize Kanye extracted from a private conversation they had with an added “bitch” jab, but Taylor is alone in committing the character assassination she claims the Wests perpetrated.
The Swift camp’s initial February response to “Famous” denied flat-out that Kanye had a phone conversation with their superstar before The Life of Pablo was debut’d at Madison Square Garden – “Kanye did not call for approval,” they wrote in a statement to Billboard (Lie). Kanye “[asked] Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message” (Lie). First, if Kanye didn’t call for approval, then what basis did Taylor have to call the song misogynistic? The statement doesn’t make sense. Second, that doesn’t matter, we now know Kanye called for approval. We heard Taylor call the “sex” line “dope” and “clearly tongue in cheek,” and express what seemed like sincere appreciation for Kanye’s friendly efforts – “I would never expect you to like tell me about a line in one of your songs,” she says. Even if it’s true that Taylor was blindsided by part of the lyric, why did she lie and say she warned Kanye not to release it? She knows most of the mainstream will eat up her words and prep the torches and pitchforks to ward off the man who allegedly wronged her. She knows that the lie, even if at the expense of another human being, will bolster the bogus feminist persona she’s force-fed us to compliment the unconditional love she gets from her blind-ass fanbase. She knows that celebrity’s twisted, twisted course of nature turns anything she says and does into more success, and that her lie necessarily meant the world would believe that thirsty, nasty Kanye called her a talentless bitch against her will – it’s evil, and it’s a truly frightening attempt at “character assassination.”
This isn’t the first time Taylor Swift got greedy. She once tried to empower women through a “Bad Blood” music video, but cast only super-models as the heroes, and Lena Dunham as the barely featured villain. She once appropriated black culture in a way that Iggy Azalea’s career couldn’t survive, but made up for it because she very publicly loves Kendrick Lamar, and knows every lyric to “Jumpman.” She even forgave Kanye West for ruining one of her first big moments, but then tried to lie about him and make sure people remember she’s the bigger person – that one didn’t work. Taylor Swift turned a scandal into a war, and no matter what those 1.3 million first-day Instagram likes tell you, she lost.
Image from here.