Kanye West trolls Taylor Swift, the world with vulgar new song 'Famous'
On Thursday, Kanye West made a lot of noise about the Madison Square Garden album release party for his new album The Life of Pablo and the launch of his Yeezy Season 3 fashion line. It was the talk of the music world and of New York Fashion Week, and it was live-streamed into theaters around the world. It was, without question, A Very Big Deal.
And it took less than two seconds for the whole thing to unravel.
It happened when West streamed The Life of Pablo’s fourth track, Famous, which contains the Taylor Swift-baiting lyrics: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that b---- famous.”
Oh, Kanye. Kanye, Kanye, Kanye.
Among the many terrible things about this lyric — it’s disrespectful, it’s misogynistic, it’s vulgar, it rehashes overtired, overworn territory — the most frustrating might be that it shows West embracing, gleefully, his worst and most troll-like instincts.
Kanye West should not resort to trollery. He’s smarter and better and more talented than that — or at least, he should be. His fans should be allowed to believe that he can be. If there is any artist who doesn’t need to drag others into his orbit to make himself more famous, it’s West.
And he knows this. Of course he knows this. He knows exactly how a lyric like that — or a tweet about Bill Cosby’s innocence — will play in the media. So why do it? For a wink and a laugh? To make some meta comment about the media’s obsession with one seven-year-old incident? If so, what does he stand to gain? Artistic credibility? Publicity? As if launching a new season of his clothing line during an album release party at Madison Square Garden wasn’t a bright enough spotlight?
No, with one lyric, Kanye shifted the news cycle from The Life of Pablo and Yeezy Season 3 onto two not-very-clever lines about Taylor Swift. He clipped Pablo's wings before the album -- which, on the whole, has moments both good and bad -- could even take flight.
This is bad publicity.
It didn’t take long for the he-said-she-said war to heat up. TMZ initially reported that West had Swift’s blessing to use the lyric. Then Swift’s camp volleyed back, saying Kanye did call Taylor, but only to ask for her support in promoting the single — which “she declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic lyric. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that b---- famous.’” And Swift’s brother Austin posted an Instagram video of himself dumping a pair of Yeezy kicks in the trash, writing: “Getting a head start on some spring cleaning. Here we go again.”
On Friday, West went on one of his patented Twitter rants on the topic, saying he wasn’t dissing Swift; that “as an artist I will express how I feel with no censorship;” that his wife, Kim Kardashian, “was cool with it;” that “b---- is an endearing term in hip hop like the word N----:” that the “famous” lyric was actually Swift’s idea, relayed to him by a mutual friend; and ending with a rant against people who wish to “demonize real artist(s)” and “compromise art” and “mute the culture.”
One might hypothesize that West actually is being true to himself with those lyrics, that he was so genuinely damaged by all the blowback from the initial Taylor Swift incident at the MTV Video Music Awards that he truly can’t get over it. He’ll keep obsessing over it, both aggressively and passive-aggressively, in his lyrics and his interviews and his public appearances, for the rest of his life. Neither artist will ever get closure.
Or, you could look at it like this: Both sides are in on this joke together, that Kanye and Taylor are trolling the world in tandem. Maybe they’ll pop up together this weekend on Saturday Night Live, or Monday at the Grammys.
None of that makes this lyric worth it. Kanye may be a visionary ("Name one genius that ain't crazy," he raps elsewhere on Pablo), but on Famous, he’s also a troll. And rooting for trolls is no fun.
-- Jay Cridlin