The alt R&B singer was born Abel Tesfaye in Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he would be raised mostly by his grandmother as his single mother worked often to support them. From his Ethiopian grandmother, he learned his first language: Amharic.
According to producer Jeremy Rose, The Weeknd started as a project between himself and Tesfaye, but they parted ways just before Tesfaye's popularity exploded. He explained to Vice: "He was pushing for some things I didn’t want to do, and it got to the point where he wouldn’t respect my opinion. He wanted me to produce for him without any of my input."
Where did that missing 'e' go at the end of his stage name? He told MTV he had to drop it to avoid copyright issues with a Canadian band called The Weekend.
One of his first fans was fellow Canadian artist Drake, who shared some of the tracks an unknown Weeknd posted to YouTube in December 2010. Drake would become a frequent collaborator and was the only guest performer on the singer's debut album, Kiss Land.
Before his debut LP, he earned his critical acclaim through the release of three mixtapes - House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence - with some calling him the greatest musical artist since Michael Jackson.
He had a feud with R&B singer The-Dream, who publicly accused The Weeknd of copying his style.
The Weeknd had barely left his hometown until he hit the age of 21. "I'd never left Toronto," he told Complex in 2012. "I'd driven to Montreal, but I'd never been on a plane before two or three years ago."
Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana
" made The Weeknd want to be a songwriter. "I got emotional," he told Billboard
magazine looking back at the first time he read its lyrics. "It's when I first knew I wanted to write songs."
The Weeknd covered the song as "D.D." on his 2011 mixtape Echoes of Silence
The Weeknd used to record Boyz II Men cover songs. "I got a microphone and a sh---y computer and started recording these corny songs with my friends, Boyz II Men covers and s--t," he recalled to Pitchfork
. "I would listen to it and I thought I sounded OK, but I was still shy."
The Weeknd's wild hair is perhaps his best known feature. Speaking to Vogue, he credited Jean-Michel Basquiat and the L.A. rapper Murs for inspiring the look.
The Weekend cut off his signature spiky dreadlocks prior to the release of his "Starboy
" single, adopting a more conventional Caesar cut: "It was actually very uncomfortable," he told The Wall Street Journal
of his Basquiat hairstyle. "I could only sleep on one side of my face. Now the sleep is amazing, the shower is amazing because I don't have to spend two hours cleaning it. I didn't know how much I wanted it until I did it."
Abel Tesfaye anonymously uploaded his first three tracks to YouTube on February 24, 2011 under the cryptic username "xoxxxoooxo." No identifying name was associated with the account, other than the peculiarly misspelled band moniker "The Weeknd."