11. Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift
Date: September 13, 2009
The Moment: At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, as a 19-year-old Taylor Swift began to deliver an acceptance speech, having beaten out Beyoncé's "All The Single Ladies" for the Best Female Video award with "You Belong With Me," Kanye West took to the stage, grabbed the microphone, and made Internet history. He exclaimed: "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!"
The Impact: West was removed from the VMAs for the rest of the night. Later in the ceremony, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift appeared in matching dresses, and Beyoncé ceremoniously give Taylor Swift time to deliver an actual acceptance speech. Kanye West quickly became an object of scorn and meme-ification for the universe over the next week, as Taylor Swift took to morning shows and aired Yeezy out. At one point, even President Barack Obama remarked in an off-the-record interview that went public calling Kanye West a "jackass."
The Upshot: Kanye West went into self-imposed exile to make what's widely seen as the best album of his career, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but not before hitting a few talk shows on the way to deliver teary apologies about the place he was in at the time (still mourning the death of his mother, for example). He also made several attempts to apologize to Taylor Swift both publicly and privately. She finally accepted his apology at the next year's VMAs in the form of what was widely regarded as a massively patronizing performance.
That same night, Kanye delivered a widely heralded premiere performance of his most self-loathing song, "Runaway." Eminem got a great lyric out the incident, on a single "No Love" ("Man, get these whack cocksuckers off stage/where the fuck is Kanye when you need him?/Snatch the mic from 'em, bitch/I'mma let you finish in a minute"). Race scholars would have plenty to chew for the next few years as the image of an angry black man stealing the spotlight from a seemingly innocent young white woman was stamped in the legacy of both artists, MTV, and pop culture for the rest of time.
Swift and 'Ye reconciled in the form of a low-five on the floor of the Met Costume Ball in 2011. And in 2012 and early 2013, Swift's reputation as an innocent began to fade as she continued to write patronizing and exploitative songs about men who had wronged her, while Kanye West's softer side emerged on national television as Americans watched him date and impregnate Kim Kardashian.