Abel Makkonen Tesfaye (Äbel Täsfaye, born 16 February 1990), known by his stage name, The Weeknd (pronounced the weekend), is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer.
In late 2010, Tesfaye anonymously uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name “The Weeknd”. He released three nine-track mixtapes throughout 2011: House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, which were critically acclaimed. In 2012, he released a compilation album Trilogy, thirty tracks consisting of the remastered mixtapes and three additional songs. It was released under Republic Records and his own label XO.
In 2013, he released his debut studio album Kiss Land, which was supported by the singles “Kiss Land” and “Live For”. His second album, Beauty Behind the Madness, which became his first number-one album on the US Billboard 200, included the number-three single “Earned It” and produced the number-one singles “The Hills” and “Can’t Feel My Face”. The songs have simultaneously held the top three spots on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart, making him the first artist in history to achieve this. For “Earned It”, which was featured on the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Tesfaye has won three Grammy Awards and nine Juno Awards. In September 2016, the release of the third studio album Starboy was announced along with the release of the title track single “Starboy”, which subsequently reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Tesfaye was born on 16 February 1990 in Toronto, Ontario and was raised in the neighbourhood of Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb in the city’s east end. He is the only child of Makkonen and Samra Tesfaye, who were Ethiopian immigrants to Canada in the late 1980s.
In Tesfaye’s youth[timeframe?], his mother would work several jobs in order to support the family, including jobs as a nurse and caterer. This was alongside attending night school to learn English. Tesfaye’s father abandoned the family when he was a toddler[timeframe?], resulting in Tesfaye being cared for by his grandmother. While living with his grandmother Tesfaye learned Amharic, which he also spoke with his mother, and attended Ethiopian Orthodox church services. Tesfaye stated in an interview that regarding his father “I saw him vaguely when I was six, and then again when I was 11 or 12, and he had a new family and kids. I don’t even know where he lived — I’d see him for, like, a night. I’m sure he’s a great guy. I never judged him. He wasn’t abusive, he wasn’t an alcoholic, he wasn’t an asshole. He just wasn’t there.”
Tesfaye’s self-describes his teenage years as the film “KIDS without the AIDS”. Tesfaye states he began smoking marijuana at age 11, and later moved on to harder drugs. Tesfaye claims he often shoplifted to supplement his use of ecstasy, oxycodone, xanax, cocaine, psilocybin, and ketamine.
Tesfaye attended West Hill Collegiate Institute and Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Toronto, from which he did not graduate from high school, leaving altogether in 2007. After which Tesfaye also left home. Tesfaye moved to the neighbourhood of Parkdale, Toronto. Tesfaye has credited his stage name as being inspired by his high school dropout status claiming “after [he] left one weekend and never came home”, though producer Jeremy Rose claims the name was his idea. The spelling was modified in order to avoid trademark issues with the Canadian band The Weekend.
2010–2011: Career beginnings
Tesfaye met Jeremy Rose in 2010, a producer who had an idea for a dark R&B musical project. After initially trying to pitch the idea to musician Curtis Santiago, Rose played one of his instrumentals for Tesfaye, who freestyle rapped over it. This led to the two collaborating on an album. Rose produced three songs – “What You Need”, “Loft Music”, and “The Morning” – and others that Tesfaye had rapped on, which were ultimately scrapped. Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would ultimately be credited for them. In December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded “What You Need”, “Loft Music” and “The Morning” to YouTube under his stage name, although his identity was initially unknown. The songs drew some attention online, and were later included in a blog post from Drake. The songs subsequently received coverage from various media outlets, including Pitchfork and The New York Times.
On 21 March 2011, Tesfaye self-released his debut mixtape House of Balloons. The mixture included production from Canadian producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, and included the tracks produced by Rose, although, he did not receive production credits. House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim, and was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.
Tesfaye began a tour of Toronto, with his first live performance at the city’s Mod Club venue. Drake was in attendance to view the performance, which ran for a total of ninety minutes. Drake approached Tesfaye and described a potential musical collaboration between the pair. Tesfaye accompanied Drake at his various shows, often performing as the opening act for shows scheduled at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, as well as appearing at the second annual OVO Fest in July. Over the summer of 2011, Drake’s studio album Take Care, was produced where Tesfaye contributed to five songs on the album, as either a writer or featured artist.
Tesfaye refrained from participating in interviews, choosing to communicate via Twitter, after the album was released. This was credited[who?] as a successful[peacock term] advertising tactic for Tesfaye second mixture Thursday, which was released on 18 August 2011. It was also subject to acclaim from music critics[who?]. Tesfaye’s third mixtape was released a year after the release of his first singles, in 2010. The singles were titled Echoes of Silence, it released on 21 December 2011, and also saw positive critical[who?] reception.
Following this release, the three mixtapes were collectively known as the Balloons Trilogy, and saw Tesfaye receiving offers from various record labels[who?]. Before adopting the stage name “The Weeknd”, he worked under the aliasses of “The Noise” and “Kin Kane”.
Tesfaye began dating model Bella Hadid at the beginning of 2015; the couple were first seen together in April at Coachella. Hadid later starred in his music video “In the Night” in December. They also made their red carpet appearance as a couple at the 2016 Grammy Awards in February. On 11 November 2016, it was reported that the couple had split; citing their conflicting schedules as the rationale for the relationship’s termination. Tesfaye reportedly started dating Selena Gomez in January 2017 and they moved in together temporarily in September 2017 in Greenwich Village, New York. They broke up in October 2017.
On social media outlets, he typically suffixed his first name with “xo”. According to writer Hermoine Hoby, it is meant as an emoticon for “a kiss and a hug”, while VH1’s Zara Golden’s stated that it is a reference to his recreational use of ecstasy and oxycodone. He later altered the handles on his social media to reflect his stage name in preparation for the release of Starboy.
Tesfaye often used drugs to help get over writer’s block on earlier albums and also abused illegal substances[clarification needed] in his youth[timeframe?]. Speaking in December 2013, Tesfaye said that drugs were a “crutch” for him when it came to writing music.
He is a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones. He enjoys playing video games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. In the context of media outlets reporting cases of police brutality, in 2016, he expressed disdain, tweeting “blue lives murder”. In May 2016, Tesfaye and Belly cancelled an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! due to Donald Trump being present.