Kanye West’s Ups And Downs Since The Taylor Swift VMAs Incident
Initial reactions generally leaned toward amusement. But that quickly bled away when the horror took over, followed by the cringing, and, finally, the long slow exhale and shake of the head that meant he'd done it again. Hip-hop's most controversial star in years, one of its most simultaneously derided and cherished treasures, interrupted America's Sweetheart on national television and embarrassed not only himself, but the Queen Bey, too. It was, in hindsight, a pretty incredible feat to pull all of that off in just under 15 seconds.
"Taylor, I'm really happy for you, and I'ma let you finish," 'Ye started after rushing the stage at the 2009 VMAs while Swift was accepting Best Female Video honors and grabbing the mic from her. "But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!" His shrug as the boos began to rain down, and Beyonce's clearly embarrassed reaction, ignited a firestorm of backlash and was one of the biggest public relations disasters of Yeezy's illustrious career.
Kanye would eventually fall back from the public eye and emerge with arguably his most complete album to date, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but he had plenty of image repair to take care of before he got there. Five years after his memorable and instantly meme-worthy interruption, XXL takes a look at Kanye's biggest highs and lows since President Obama felt compelled to call him a jackass. Keep doing you, Kanye. —Dan Rys
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Well, we might as well start here. Immediately after the boos began to take over, public sentiment shifted dramatically in support of Swift—who played the helpless puppy up a bit, if truth be told—and Twitter did what Twitter does. "Fuck you, Kanye. It's like you stepped on a kitten," tweeted Katy Perry. "What happened to you as a child?? Did you not get hugged enough??" tweeted Kelly Clarkson. "Kanye West is the biggest piece of [expletive] on earth," sent P!nk, completing a nice little trifecta of pop star fury. Three days later, Obama called him a jackass. Not a great week.
And then the memes came. And oh were they excellent.
Verdict: Very Down.
Kanye West and Lady Gaga cancel their joint tour, set to launch Nov. 10, with reps saying that Yeezy was going to take some time off rather than hit the road. Gaga, for her part, still performed at most of the dates on the original Fame Kills Tour schedule.
Verdict: Neutral. It would have been weird for everyone, anyway.
Kanye kicks off the year with two Grammys—for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration—alongside Jay Z and Rihanna for "Run This Town."
Verdict: Definite up
Suge Knight, ever eager to be in the headlines for something semi-crazy, sues Kanye West for $1 million after he was shot at a party Yeezy hosted back in 2005. Later in the year, a judge tosses out the suit completely.
Verdict: Up, I guess
Kanye and Amber Rose, who had been dating since 2008, break up, allegedly due to "homewrecker" Kim Kardashian.
Verdict: Up and down; breakups suck, but the heartache helped make My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy what it was, so it's hard to choose.
Kanye introduces G.O.O.D. Music Fridays with plans to drop a new single every week until Christmas. This produces some amazing collabs, worthwhile remixes and, most importantly, new Kanye music. There's also a song with Raekwon and Justin Bieber, which is strange to say the least, but kind of works pretty well.
Verdict: Up. New music is G.O.O.D.
Kanye graces the cover of XXL and writes his own cover story, titled La Dolce Vita.
Verdict: Up for being one of the coolest XXL covers ever
Kanye returns to the scene of his vilified moment with a quest for redemption and performs "Runaway" for the first time while wearing an all red suit. It is glorious. The 35-minute extended music video came out the next day to kill productivity on a Monday in office buildings across America. Let's have a toast for the douchebags, indeed.
Kanye releases the cover art for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is promptly banned by the "powers that be" for its over sexuality.
In an interview with Matt Lauer, former president George W. Bush calls Kanye's "George Bush doesn't like black people" comment—made during a telethon to support victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005—"one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency."
Verdict: Down; this was just weird
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy represents a return from the wilderness for Yeezy and grabs a perfect XXL rating from us. Singles like "Power," "Monster," "All Of The Lights" and "Runaway" put Kanye's music back in the spotlight rather than his antics, which can only help him in the long run.
Verdict: This album rules
MBDTF goes platinum, reaching one million in sales.
Verdict: Up, obviously.
The Kanye West Foundation—renamed the Dr. Donda West foundation after his mother's death—that was established in 2003 to combat high school dropout rates, mysteriously shuts down, according to the New York Times.
Kanye brings his G.O.O.D. Music imprint to Def Jam, clearing the way for his Cruel Summer compilation to come out a year later.
Watch The Throne, his collaborative album with Jay Z, comes out after months of rumors, successfully avoiding leaks with some saying that the music was only transported via handcuffed briefcase during the recording process.
Jay and 'Ye break an iTunes record for first week downloads with WTT.
Verdict: Breaking records is almost always a good thing
Can't even catch a break, huh? Less than a month after WTT, blues singer Syl Johnson sues Kanye and Jay Z for not clearing the sample Pete Rock flipped on "The Joy." The case wound up being settled out of court.
Verdict: Definite downer
Watch The Throne goes platinum, making it Kanye's second million-selling certification within a year.
Verdict: Up. Anything shiny is usually a good thing
Kanye debuts his first-ever fashion line at a star-studded show in Paris where a slew of celebrities and designers were in attendance. He spoke beforehand about how nervous he was to present it and seemingly was right to be nervous, as the line was generally panned by critics. He wound up redeeming himself the next year, however.
Yeezy and Hova kick off their Watch The Throne Tour in Atlanta, which would become memorable not only for the length and intensity of the shows, but for the number of times they performed "Niggas In Paris" in a row.
Kanye is a big winner at the Grammys, grabbing four awards on the night for Best Rap Performance ("Otis" with Jay Z), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, Best Rap Song (both "All Of The Lights") and Best Rap Album (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Despite "All Of The Lights" getting a nomination for Song Of The Year, however, MBDTF was shut out of the running for Album Of The Year in favor of Adele (who won), Lady Gaga, Foo Fighters, Rihanna and Bruno Mars.
Verdict: Up. He may have been upset, but four Grammys is four Grammys
Kanye reportedly starts dating Kim Kardashian, with whom he had allegedly been seeing while still with Amber Rose.
Verdict: Undecided at the time, up in retrospect
"Mercy" comes out and almost immediately becomes the leading contender for song of the summer, bumping from the speakers of what felt like every car in the country in 2012.
Verdict: Way up
G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer drops a week before the summer actually ends, and delivers a solid label album with a slew of high-profile guests. The only problem with the project is that all the best songs—"Mercy," "Clique," "New God Flow"—had already dropped as singles, making the LP a bit underwhelming.
Grammy time again, and Yeezy comes away with more awards for his efforts. In categories he pretty much has in his back pocket at this point, 'Ye takes home Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for "Niggas In Paris" alongside Jay Z, while also grabbing Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with Jigga, Frank Ocean and The-Dream for "No Church In The Wild."
Kanye sets the hip-hop world on fire by projecting "New Slaves" onto 66 buildings around the world, sparking excitement for Yeezus to a fever pitch.
Kim Kardashian gives birth to North West, hers and Kanye's first child together, who is unspeakably adorable.
Verdict: Through the roof
Yeezus comes out the same day as J. Cole's Born Sinner and Mac Miller's Watching Movies With The Sound Off, setting up another sales battle like the one 'Ye was involved in with 50 Cent in 2007, when both Graduation and Curtis dropped the same day. Yeezy beat 50 the first time around, and Yeezus debuted at No. 1 this time as well, though selling far below his usual numbers.
'Ye gets fed up and attacks a papparazzi member taking his photo and grabs his camera, eventually being faced with attempted robbery charges. He slips the charges, but is sued by the photographer.
Verdict: Down down down
Kanye gets into a ridiculous Twitter altercation with Jimmy Kimmel, then goes on Kimmel's show to try and explain why he believes he is a genius. Things did not go that smoothly.
Yeezy kicks off his Yeezus Tour with Kendrick Lamar in Seattle, performing in a mask on top of a mountain and inviting a Jesus lookalike on stage at one point. The tour would become known for more than just his impressively over the top stage setup; it was also his preferred venue to begin serving up some of his now-infamous rants about the fashion industry and the classism that he perceived was keeping him down in the business worlds that he wanted to pursue.
Verdict: Up, because it was an awesome tour
Two days after the Yeezus Tour starts, Kanye makes a pit stop in San Francisco and rents out the Giants' entire baseball stadium in order to propose to Kim Kardashian, which is of course filmed and plastered everywhere as promotion for Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Verdict: Down, because he made all other proposals look bad
Adidas confirms that Kanye signed a deal with them as a designer, ending 'Ye's longstanding relationship with Nike and the ridiculously popular Nike Yeezys. This comes on the heels of one of Kanye's Yeezus Tour rants where he went off on Nike CEO Mark Parker.
Verdict: Remains to be decided until we see the new Adidas Yeezy IIIs
Kanye is hit with a $250,000 settlement after an altercation with a man who insulted Kim Kardashian on the street, which led to battery charges.
Verdict: Not bad considering the dude he punched was a racist asshole
Jay Z's Roc Nation takes control of the business side of Yeezy's DONDA creative agency.
Verdict: Down. Kanye is the little brother again
Kanye and Kim are on the cover of Vogue, shocking and outraging a whole community of people who have nothing to do but get upset about this sort of thing.
Verdict: That's a bucket list victory for 'Ye. Big up
Kanye West goes to jail for an incredible 49 minutes.
Verdict: I mean, down, but it's still pretty hilarious
Kanye teams up with fellow Chi-Town MC Common on a project that would help bring 20,000 new jobs to Chicago.
Kanye and Kim tie the knot in a lavish wedding in Florence, Italy. Jay Z and Beyonce do not attend, but Jaden Smith does.
Verdict: Up. Hard to hate on true love