Kanye West riffs here on his longevity and success since his rise to fame. That includes, at least in the rapper's mind, making Taylor Swift famous. West's misogynistic reference to Swift on this track stole all the headlines as soon as it was made public:
I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous
I made that bitch famous
The lyric refers to when West infamously rushed the stage as Swift was collecting the award for Best Female at the 2009 MTV VMA's. He claimed Beyoncé should have won the prize, which led to a media backlash against the rapper. Swift, however was seen as the victim and became even more likable in the public eye.
The pair made amends at the MTV VMA Awards in 2015, when Swift handed West the lifetime achievement prize.
When West asked Swift to release "Famous" on her social media accounts, she declined and cautioned him about dropping a tune with such a strong misogynistic message. According to her spokesperson, the songstress "was never made aware of the actual lyric, 'I made that bitch famous.'"
Clearly Swift's family weren't expecting the jab. The singer's brother Austin posted an Instagram video where he threw a pair of Yeezy sneakers in the garbage.
West later released a statement denying he was dissing Taylor Swift. He went on to argue his case for the lyric:
"2nd thing I asked my wife for her blessings and she was cool with it.
3rd thing I called Taylor and had an hour long convo with her about the name and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings.
4th Bitch is an endearing term in hip hop like the word Nigga.
5th thing I'm not even gone take credit for the idea… it's actually something Taylor came up with… She was having dinner with one of our friends who's name I will keep out of this and she told him. I can't be mad at Kanye because he made me famous! #FACTS.
6th stop trying to demonize real artist Stop trying to compromise real art. That's why music is so f---ing watered down right now. I miss that DMX feeling. I miss that feeling so that's what I want to help restore."
West recruited Rihanna to sing the sultry chorus. The pair previously collaborated on the Bajan songstress' hit single "FourFiveSeconds
" along with Beatles legend Paul McCartney.
Swiss Beatz accompanies both West and Rihanna. The hip-hop artist and producer previously rapped the bridge on the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
track "So Appalled
The song samples Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" during the bridge. The dancehall legend's reggae staple has also showed up in Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones," Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's "The Basement," and Main Source's "Just Hangin Out."
West also borrows from Nina Simone's "Do What You Gotta Do" chops it up and lets it ride through the outro. West previously sampled the jazz legend on his Yeezus
track "Blood On The Leaves
Swift seemed to respond to West in her acceptance speech when she won the Grammy for Album Of The Year (for 1989) shortly after this song was released. "There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," she said. "But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you are going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there and that will be the greatest feeling in the world."
When Kanye West originally shared the tracklisting of his seventh album (then titled SWISH), this was listed as the opening song under its original name of "Nina Chop."
Comedian Aziz Ansari and Master Of None co-star Eric Wareheim teamed up to film a spoof video for the song. Shot in Rome, it sees the pair miming along to the lyrics while engaging in various shenanigans. The Internet quickly embraced the wacky visual, as did Kanye West, who agreed to have it as the official music video.
The NSFW video features likenesses of a number notable celebrities all sleeping naked in bed together. The famous synthetic bodies are West and his wife Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, presidential candidate Donald Trump, former President George W. Bush (who West notably criticized in 2005 for not caring about black people after Hurricane Katrina), Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, Kardashian ex Ray J, Chris Brown and West's former girlfriend Amber Rose. The clip was inspired by American realist painter Vincent Desiderio's "Sleep."
Speaking to Vanity Fair, West explained the visual saying, "It's a comment on fame. It's not in support or anti any of [the people in the video]."
West also spoke about the inclusion in the video of George W. Bush, saying, "Maybe in some alternative universe me and George Bush could have been friends. I could have been his O.J. Simpson black friend on the golf course."
The Taylor/Kanye saga added another chapter on July 17, 2016 when Kim Kardashian posted footage (captured by cameras rolling for her show Keeping Up With the Kardashians) of the "famous" phone conversation between the two on her Snapchat. In the edited call, we hear West recite the line "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex," and Swift give her tacit approval, then stating she appreciated him letting her know. "All I give a f--k about is just you, as a person and as a friend. I want things that make you feel good," West says.
West never mentioned the line "I made that bitch famous" during the call, and hours later, Swift posted this message on Instagram with the caption, "That moment when Kanye West secretly records your phone call, then Kim posts it on the Internet":
"Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me 'that bitch' in his song? It doesn't exist because it never happened. You don't get to control someone's emotional response to being called 'that bitch' in front of the entire world. Of course I wanted to like the song. I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. He promised to play the song for me, but he never did. While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot 'approve' a song you haven't heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009."