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Since starting this promo tour a week ago, he's been to Las Vegas, Paris, Berlin and now London. A press-shy Ethiopian kid from Toronto who has given only a handful of interviews, he has cultivated a near-mythical image as a bed-hopping, pill-popping, chart-topping cipher.
The cold caught up with him yesterday, during a signing for 500 squealing fans at the Oxford Circus HMV. "We live in an era when everything is so excessive, I think it's refreshing for everybody to be like, ' Who the fuck is this guy? "I think that's why my career is going to be so long: Because I haven't given people everything."Spend just five minutes with him, though, and he reveals himself: sweet, soft-spoken, surprisingly earnest.
"But the screams keep getting louder, dude."Tesfaye comes over to say hi, dressed in black Levi's and a Roots hoodie, his tsunami of hair piled high atop his head.
"Sorry, I'm sick," he says, as his handshake becomes a fist bump in midair. ")This scene would not have seemed possible in 2011, when the Weeknd appeared with a trio of cult-favorite mixtapes that established both his sonic template — drug-drenched, indie-rock-sampling, sex-dungeon R&B — and his mysterious, brooding persona.
The lyrics were an addiction counselor's worst nightmare: pills, pain, shame, serotonin, danger.
He and his crew posted three songs on You Tube and started spamming their friends on Facebook, then watched the play counts slowly climb. " Toronto being a small town in some ways, the songs were heard by Drake's manager, Oliver El-Khatib, who posted them to the OVO blog, where they promptly blew up.
The song was viewed more than 300,000 times and shared almost 20,000 times within three hours of being posted.
"Oliver was the one vouching for me."The then-anonymous Tesfaye declined all interviews.Every song is As Tesfaye said in a 2013 interview, "I was hungry....I was like, ' Dude, take anything.'" Today, he says he has nothing but gratitude for Drake, whom he calls "my closest friend in the industry at that time." Still, he says, "I gave up almost half of my album. I will always be thankful — if it wasn't for the light he shined on me, who knows where I'd be.So when the verdict comes back "no swearing," he nods and smoothly pivots to a censored version — a small gesture that says a lot about the kind of professional he has become."The Hills" is currently enjoying its fourth straight week at Number One, a feat made even more impressive because it took the place of another Weeknd track, "Can't Feel My Face" — Spotify's official song of the summer, and the only song about cocaine ever to be lip-synced by Tom Cruise on network TV.Tesfaye is just the 12th artist in history to score back-to-back Number Ones, a group that includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Taylor Swift.