The Evolution of an Apology

Photo: Patrick McMullan

At the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, West interrupted Taylor Swift, outraged that her video for “You Belong With Me” defeated Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” for Best Female Video. His now-famous words: “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, and I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” Since then, his apology has evolved in typically Westian fashion: epically, arrogantly, brilliantly.

September 13, 2009
While the MTV VMAs are still airing, Kanye apologizes on his blog—sort of. “i’m sooooo sorry to taylor swift and her fans and her mom … i’m in the wrong … i’m not crazy yall, i’m just real. sorry for that!!! i really feel bad for taylor and i’m sincerely sorry!!!”

September 14, 2009
On The Jay Leno Show, he says, “It was rude, period … I don’t try to justify it, because I was just in the wrong … But I need to, after this, take some time off.”

Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images

November 2009
Seemingly shamed, West disappears. His tour with Lady Gaga is canceled; he moves to Japan, then Rome, then Hawaii, where he lives for six months.

September 4, 2010
In a Twitter frenzy, West complains, “I became George Bush overnight … If you Google asshole, my face may very well pop up … The media have successfully painted the image of the ANGRY BLACK MAN, the King Kong theory … Who’s seen the play Wicked? … It’s my story!!! The Wicked Witch of the West basically is so convicted to tell her truth [that] when she does it, she is outcasted … I only want to do good … I’m sorry Taylor.”

September 12, 2010
At the VMAs again, a year later, West debuts his new song “Runaway,” both embracing and lamenting his terrible treatment of women: “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags!”

November 3, 2010
George W. Bush says the “most disgusting” moment of his presidency was West’s post-Katrina comment that Bush didn’t “care about black people.” West replies: “With [Bush], it was a lack of compassion of him not rushing … down to New Orleans. With me, it was a lack of compassion of cutting someone off … I think we’re all quick to pull a race card in America. The poetic justice … now I really more connect with [Bush] on just a humanitarian level.”

November 4–7, 2010
West takes credit for Swift’s sales: “That spawned her to have 1 million magazine covers and be the most popular artist in the world … I do feel bad about being the cause of that.” Later, he adds: “It’s like, what’s so arrogant about that moment? If anything, it’s selfless … I’m not pandering.”

November 22, 2010
Kanye’s album will include the bonus track “See Me Now”: “Immature adult? Uh-huh. Insecure asshole? What else? … I’ma let you finish, but I got Beyoncé on the track … Black excellence, baby … We the greatest in the world!” It’s like he never apologized at all.

The Evolution of an Apology