Abel Tesfaye, bka the Weeknd hasn’t been too revealing thus far in his career, but for the August/September ’13 issue of Complex, the singer has done his first ever interview. Speaking to former staff writer Damien Scott, Tesfaye opens up about his work with Drake, his own music, and Toronto. Check out excerpts below.

On material his contributions to Drake’s Take Care:

House of Balloons was actually supposed to have more songs than it does. I had so many records left, and then Take Care came through. “Crew Love,” “Shot for Me,” and “The Ride” were supposed to be on House of Balloons. I wanted to come out with like 14 records. I felt like “The Ride” was the last one, and it wasn’t done yet. [Drake] heard it and he was like, “This shit’s crazy.”

It seems like your work on Take Care was similar to the way Kanye West enlisted Kid Cudi on 808s & Heartbreak.
Or when Jay-Z hit up Kanye for The Blueprint.

Do you think Drake tapped you to give Take Care that feel?
Yeah, he told me he wouldn’t be able to do the album without me. You can read it on the credits that he thanked me. I don’t know if that’s him being generous, but I gave him a lot of records. I made “Practice.”

What did you do on “Practice”?
That whole hook was me. That’s probably the only song I wrote for Take Care. The rest of it was just shit I was going to have for [House of Balloons]. He really wanted to incorporate my sound, which was inspired by his sound. It’s not like, “Oh, I had the ‘new sound.’” It was just easier for him to relate to me, because it was his sound with an edge. It was that Toronto sound. So yeah, you’re right. I feel like I could have been that for his album.

On his upcoming LP Kiss Land:

Where do you see yourself in the world of R&B?
The only thing R&B about my shit is the style of singing. My inspiration is R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, and Prince, for the vocals anyway. My production and songwriting, and the environment around those vocals are not inspired by R&B at all.

I heard Portishead drums on “Belong to the World.”
Yeah, that was the inspiration behind that. I wrote a letter to the producers of Portishead and let them know this album is inspired by them.

The entire Kiss Land album?
Most of it. I find a sound and run with it. It varies from Stevie Nicks to Genesis and Phil Collins. The production is very cinematic for me, and R&B was never cinematic like that.

The song “Kiss Land” has a new level of musicality and thoughtfulness that seems apropos for your first major label release.
I’m all about evolution. I’m the first person to judge myself. I listen to my music and I’ll be like, “This is shit.” Everyone around me is like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

(Tom pointed out in an earlier post that Portishead’s Geoff Barrow took to Twitter to chide Tesfaye for using the “Machine Gun” sample without permission.

On finally leaving home:

I’m not here to change or lie about what I’m going to do. What I sing about is what I sing about. But there’s a lot of cool twists with this album, because this album symbolizes everything that I’d never experienced in the past 21 years of my life. I’d never left Toronto. I’d driven to Montreal, but I’d never been on a plane before two or three years ago.

Wow. That’s crazy.
From when I was born to when I was 21, I never left Toronto. That’s why I’m such a city cat. Trilogy is my experiences in those four walls. Kiss Land is me doing the things I did in Trilogy in different settings. [Laughs.]

Read the whole thing at Complex.

Kiss Land is out this year via Republic.

Comments (25)
  1. humble fellow…

  2. Wow, where to start. Every step this guy has taken there is somebody saying he fucked them over. First off, jeremy rose. Rose seems like a bit of a D himself ( (shout out chattown hustle), however, it’s hard to ignore, especially given the diminishing returns with Thursday (excellent) and Echoes (meh). Granted, it was 2 excellent and 1 dece album in year, but the production turned pretty stale the further you get from house of balloons.

    Then drake. I don’t blame weeknd for not signing to anything affiliated with daddy or weezy, but it’s hard to deny that drake repped HAAAAARD for this guy. If the biggest thing drake got in return for that was, easily, the WACKEST track off take care (practice. HA.) then that’s a bum ass deal. weeknd needed drake, not the other way around. Sure I’m a drake apologist, but it wouldn’t have happened this quick without him. no question. that said, crew love is the jam.

    Also “Kiss Land” sounds like an amusement park idea gene simmons would shit out his ass.

    • I actually really liked Echoes. It’s really really grim, so I don’t jam to it as much as Balloons, but it has a lot of great stuff in it (notably “Outside” “XO/The Host” and “Initiation”). Also I think that he became a much better writer over the course of the three albums, and Echoes has the most stuff going on lyrically.
      Also the first half of “Kiss Land” (the song) is awesome, so I’m looking forward to the new album.

    • this is silly to me. Drake put the word out about the Weeknd. But thats about it. Abel had blown up by the time Drake released Take Care. So any buzz as a result is null. As I said in the other comments section no one would care if the music wasnt good. Drake isnt Pitchfork. he cant make or break a band. At the end of the day, if Drake had said “hey world, check out this guy”, and Abel didnt have talent, the world wouldnt have given Abel the time of day. Abel’s great songwriting, his soundscapes, his vocals, and the fact all 3 mixtapes were masterpieces all speak to why he blew up. Counterintuitive as it may seem, I think the lack of press, the mystery and the “who is abel and what does he look like” buzz that came when HOB hit and in 2011 in general all helped to build his brand. There was a time there, for a good year, all you saw of Abel, was a few press shots, face obscured, and strange and mysterious YouTube videos, which really were just black and white single photo stills of half naked women. Again, this was great business sense on Abels part.
      And as I said, 2011 was ripe for new sounds in r &b. HOB and Nostalgia Ultra came along at the right time. Timing is everything. Had those albums come out in 2008, I dont know if the world would have been ready for it.
      He also seems to have blown up as a result of a dynamic live show, Ive never seen him live, but I remember everyone flipping out after Thursday was released and someone posted clips on YouTube of the live show, with backing band. And the breakout and lauded Coachella gig from either 2011 or 2012. The Gaga remix track. Gaga isnt pissed off. She has as much claim as Drake does.
      As far as people complaining about Abel, at this point we have differing stories. Drake hasnt reponded yet. Abel’s story is that they are buddies, still are. So I wouldnt include Drake in your “weeknd wronged artists” list..

      • First off, the weeknd is but a single entry in a long “artists who wrong” list, which also includes the-dream for similar reasons as the weeknd, and weezer for very different reasons (i.e., last decade of shittiness). drake has said in interviews that you can take all of his recent tracks as you like, and if you read into them that they are dissing the weeknd then that’s fine. kinda weak but better than some Common “I’m comin for you sweet boy, UNGH SERENA I LUV YOU!!!!” So he basically said that it’s all about weeknd, if you see it that way, which we do.

        I think it’s true that Able had blown up in the indie sphere (sphere?) before take care, however part of the promotional process of that album (e.g., headlines video) was about getting the word out about OVOXO. While I think (arguably) you can do well on the pitchforks and stereogums without that kind of promo, drake is obviously going to take you to another level when it comes to ma and pa awareness that you exist.

        It’s also not a matter of talent of talent for me, it’s demeanour. there’s no arguing he’s extremely talented and I thoroughly enjoy all his music. However, he’s a got a way of conducting himself that clearly pisses a lot of people off. For example, despite all that talent, guy has only guested on wiz khalifa and juicy j tracks. Why would you work with wiz khalifa? You know who works with wiz khalifa? Amber Rose. How about someone that doesn’t suck? It seems like no one wants to work with him. Hol up tho, I could be wrong and am getting a little off track into “Conspiracy Land” here.

        So I guess what I’m saying is that the guys seems a lil shady to me. One thing you didn’t address that is pivotal to my argument is the jeremy rose debacle. While jeremy rose could just be a jaded dick (likely), the weeknd is the only artist in recent memory with a trail of use them and lose them friends that seem to have played essential roles in getting where he is, whether in defining his sound or getting him into mainstream popularity.

        Or I could be wrong. I don’t know. I’m not a wizard.

        • Im not really seeing the outrage in him working with those collaborators. Wiz is marred to Amber Rose. He is free to work with whoever he wants. And so far his sense of who to collab with has been impeccable. Being mad that he works with someone who is married to Amber is the most absurd thing ive ever heard. Are you insinuating he was trying to work with Wiz because he wanted his wife? Theres never been a hint of that, so you clearly are off your rocker right now.

          I posted in the Belong video comments thread a simple youtube search turns up a Drake radio interview, where he says he and Abel still talk and that he respects Abels decision to sign with a new label. Doesnt sound like

          You keep refering to this vast conspiracy that Abel is a part of, this vast trail of burnt and scarred friends and collaborators. I just proved that Drake doesnt view Abel as you keep suggesting.

          So we are left with one accuser. Jeremy Rose.

          “the only artist in recent memory with a trail of use them and lose them friends that seem to have played essential roles in getting where he is”. Really?

          You can claim that based off one accusation by Rose?

          Hyperbole much?

          • “Are you insinuating he was trying to work with Wiz because he wanted his wife? Theres never been a hint of that, so you clearly are off your rocker right now.”

            “this vast conspiracy” … “this vast trail of burnt and scarred friends”

            “I just proved”

            “Hyperbole much?”


        • no one wants to work with him? You seen the list of collabs and remixes he’s done? He seems to be doing well.

          • If you think that a collab list that is comprised entirely of Juciy J, Wiz Khalifa, Rich Hil, and French Montana is indicative of “doing well,” then we are clearly at two very different places in our lives.

            You are at a place where the weeknd is a very important and influential fixture in your life, and I don’t want to ruin that for you. Sometimes, though, musicismylife79, we need to look critically at our idols, as they often turn out to be a little less than the pedestal we put them on. Weeknd is just a guy, and probably a shitty guy at that. This doucher interview he gave (his only) sort of indicates that, but, again, AGREE TO DISAGREE :)))))))))))

            Be easy,

  3. Weeknd backlash is all well and good, but this dude did put a cinematic spin on R&B and I’m really looking forward to what he does next. He’s a Rich Hil track away from ruining his reputation, though.

    I wonder if the Love King is Kiss Land’s Uncle Pennybags.

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  5. and yeah, for all we know Rose could be making up and inflating how important he was. How do we know its not just sour grapes and jealousy about the fact he voluntarily left a project that become hugely successful? Rose doesnt just claim he helped with a few tracks, he essentially claims ownership of it all. The sound and content, the beats and production, the band name.

    • It’s apparent that you enjoy the Weeknd so much that you’ve become a historian on the matter, which is fine and all, but I guess now would be as good a time as ever to potentially prep yourself for the backlash, because it looks like it’s starting to get its wheels in motion. I have a hunch that Pitchfork isn’t going to be too kind to Kissland, if only because they’ve been tepid toward the newest singles by throwing up short write-ups about them and not giving them formal reviews or Best New Track honors. I don’t take their staff as dummies, either, and if by the time Kissland arrives and they paint him as the opportunist who has gotten as far as he did thus far by hitching his wagon to other peoples’ stars, I won’t be surprised.

    • agree with mike. also, rose doesn’t claim ownership of them all, he claims ownership of those 3 bitchin tracks. Rose wasn’t given any credit, which is bullshit. the tracks were not significantly changed. that video of Able singing “what you need” at the U of T talent show before all of this is the exact same song.

      Mike nailed this one on the head. There’s gonna be backlash, and it’s not going to be pretty.

      • 3 tracks out of 30. The claims that he’s made bank off material Rose created is ridiculous. Rose admits the 3 drake posted were ones he was on. But the final version of HOB wasnt his mix nor was he featured on any of it.

        He does claim ownership of it all. He said he created the name. He pushed Abel from doing straight r and b into doing the dark and druggy sound we all associate with him, and he claims he was instrumental in the songs.

  6. Dude’s a cheat. His most recent ripoff – Portishead. Fuck him.

  7. im going on record saying all 3 mixtapes were flawless. Thursday and Echoes were unfairly overlooked and are underrated as hell. In time I think Thursday and Echoes will be considered as revolutionary as HOB. One aspect of it, I think people failed to grasp was how well planned out the timing of the mixtapes were. HOB sounds like a Febuary album. Thursday is the sunniest and “happiest” of the 3 and sounds like August. Echoes sounds like a late December album.

    As far as the songs-Thursday has some amazing songs. The Zone. Rolling Stone. Gone-a damn freestyle! The Birds part 1 and 2.

    Echoes is brilliant. DD. Montreal is beautiful with the multilingual touches. You’ve got XO/The Host, where it morphes midway and that DAMN VOICE. Same old song. And Next.

    The albums are equally brilliant.

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