Details surrounding Abel Tesfaye (AKA Toronto R&B/Pop sensation The Weeknd)’s formative years as a young Toronto musician are hard to come by. Stories about his oringiation, where he comes from and how he used to behave, pre-fame, abound and conflict with each other constantly. One of Abel’s peers, who claims to have grown up with The Weeknd in Scarborugh, Toronto and had seen these rumours circulating on internet forums wanted to set the record straight by giving the honest perspective from an insider of the scene.
Her re-telling of the early Scarborough days sounds organic and provides insight into the bleak hopelessness of that Toronto landscape that both Drake and The Weeknd co-habited in anonymity for a period of time. The account of hers has since been removed from the internet (the original forum no longer exists) so I’ve produced her version of events in full, below.
The full account of Abel’s pre-fame days, from the perspective of one of the women in his circle of associates
First, Drake and Abel did not ever chill back in Drake’s mixtape days, Drake’s OVO member Oliver showed Abel to him through his Youtube.
Also, Abel has always been a “troubled kid.” From what I saw he struggled with self-esteem and self-placement for a long time. I dropped out not too far into school so I can’t speak much about that only what I remember. Anyways, we had a load of mutual friends surprisingly, I guess, and chilled by circumstance. From what I seen, before he was even put on for music in general like not even The Noise or nothing I know he smoked weed, we all did. My older brother was a well known chemist/dealer and not too far down along the timeline him and a few others started asking for party drugs like Roxies and X, and wanting to try coke. Not too long after graduation or maybe even before he was smoking weed daily and a pack a day. Yes, he began to change a lot but I don’t think it was for image. To me personally it just looked like he didn’t care. He went to AA eventually I guess tryna get some help (a lot of help that did) and there he met Nev (who’s now a music director or something similar). Now I don’t know who the Hell came up with this outlandish idea, but Nev was never a “pimp” setting up dudes with chicks. She was just a real lesbian and a mad cool one at that.
Hassan never doubled as anything either. That’s simply not true. Yes, he’s gay but for anyone who doesn’t know, Abel is as far from judgemental as possible. And Haz wasn’t even FLAMING gay: he knew how to stay chill, he was a real laid back kind of dude. I guess Haz offered to pay for most of the rent or something because he had money and was a good friend and like anyone practically living on the streets, Abel took the offer (I would). I used to chill with this kid named Tim who knew Haz when we went over a couple of times; there wasn’t one thing that would lead to a single thought of an intimate relationship.
About girls: The Weeknd’s always loved white chicks. ALWAYS. I can recall laughing, back for the short time I went to school, and at parties cause him and his friends stayed tryna hit on chicks left and right but back then none of them were getting anything (off the record it’s amazing what drug abuse, a beard, and grown out hair will do to sex appeal…in a positive way.)
Anyways, about his homies tryna hook him up and him rejecting girls, he wasn’t (at least back then) an A-hole, and he used to have respect for women, and himself. He was a real reclusive dude and didn’t want his business put out like that. There was so much pillow talk back then and I’m sure nothing has changed in the passed couple years.
One thing I do kind of agree on is the crew thing. It seems like some of his circle (not naming anyone) kind of came out of nowhere. But Abel and Lamar go way back before the official XO so I’m not sure [about the validity of Lamar ‘using’ Abel]. I never really knew none of them like that so I can’t say too much. I know a girl who knows Lamar and says they still talk and she said he doesn’t take Abel for a joke at all. She said Lamar, out of anyone, has his loyalty with XO. I mean unlike anyone else besides Abel, he is holding it down with the photography and visuals, not to mention when he directs other artist’s videos he still reps for XO. He’s got it tatted behind his ear too, so idk, I’m iffy on that one.”
Abel Tesfaye, growing up
“I know the struggle that kid went through and all of us who got into lots of trouble. If you’re looking for the cold hard truth I’ll put my business out there: The people with whom I was chilling, the ones I met him through, we were doing anything from weed to Ketamine and Morphine, so if they were doing that with me, and we’re all doing cocaine and X together, Abel was probably doing the same thing. I mean we didn’t even know what the pills were we just put em on our tongues and downed em with beer. And one thing that astonished me was how good he was at hiding it cause I guess back then he cared or wasn’t ready for that kind of attention like the rest of us were getting. Just as Glass Table Girls implies, “I heard he on drugs now/You heard wrong I been on em for a minute we just never act a fool“.
The Weeknd laughed when I asked him if the Ethiopian community from Toronto thought he was a “disgrace” – his reply was: ‘The “Ethiopian community” doesn’t care’. His family is another story. I heard through some old friends that his family were very religious and traditional (hence Weeknd’s The Knowing music video) and from what I’ve seen Abel’s attitude is something like ‘If there is a God I don’t really care right now’ so his family dropped him and the antagonism escalated fast. He ended up bouncing around a lot of what society calls “the wrong crowd” (which I was a part of, and which is how I got to sit back and watch The Weeknd form).
In Toronto a lot of kids like me, kids like him, and possibly kids like you stick together to survive. No one lived in my crib because it was convenient, closer to college or we felt we were ready to move out. We were struggling to keep off the streets stealing petty items, like Ramen and frozen bags of fish sticks. And if you don’t believe me there is a rapper from Toronto on the rise who just released his mixtape Conflicts Of My Soul: The 416 Story and if anyone knows the lifestyle I’m talking about or doesn’t get it listen to the whole mixtape and it will speak for me; that right there is beautiful poetic justice.
And about people seeing him “act gay” that is an insanely messed up thing to say to the gay community. I didn’t know there was a certain way that “gay” people acted. I do know that because he only showed this hipster kind of partying side to him (rather than the terror that was stirring up inside him) that was like needy and ‘I don’t care’,but if it rubbed off as “gay” then you’re mistaken and need to slap yourself in the face 100 times for having bad judgement. I heard he went upstairs with a bisexual kid, but I can promise it was nothing intimate. He probably had some drugs Abel wasn’t down to do in front of people and back then we were all desperate. I would have jumped into a car with 6 strange men for a blunt and a couple pills.
I laughed when I read Twenty Eight being about Drake! Twenty Eight is a double entendre about a girl who put the Weeknd’s business out (he was afraid, due to insecurities) and his fans and how his very untraditional success came about. Unlike a label hearing buzz and putting him on, social media was his label. From all the fan-made artwork and covers, DJ hosted mixtapes, blogs that were (and still do) cover his every move, etc. It was overwhelming. And no: He did not go to Forrest Hill or West Hill. We went to Birchmount, or I did for a year or so.
Last but not lease *drum roll* JEREMY ROSE! Oh Lord. Jeremy moved to Toronto to get serious about his music career. Jeremy and Abel were never actually “introduced” to each other despite all this popular belief. It was really all mutual friends and they met by circumstance (just like me). Some Australians or Asians that Jeremy met at a poutine place (everyone meets at a poutine place). They would throw parties and smoke sessions and they were playing Jeremy’s original version of What You Need and Abel started freestyling over it. They instantly had chemistry and Jeremy asked to work with him. Now this is when Abel was with The Noise and he was after the fast money and what not (he was also Kin Kane… like the kin of Cain.. cause he’s Abel, get it?). On a side note, by this time I was already as strung out as Abel is now so what I’m giving you is unbiased, based on what I’ve seen as a witness: I don’t really consider myself a friend or an acquaintance. I think Jeremy kind of saw what potential Abel had with all he was doing and tried to convince him on “The Weekend”. I think he knew Abel fit for the concept. The Noise was all half-assed music for the money money but The Weekend would be something real for both parties. Abel went with it but during the process they began to see differently and where originally they both had the idea of a really grimy, nasty, raw, x-rated style of music, Abel had a change of heart or desire or something and created “The Weeknd” and I believe (from my POV) it was after the concept of Thursday came about. For anyone who read the Kiss and Tell interview Thursday was a conceptual project meaning it’s the same ongoing story, and the tracks are chapters in a book. It was probably this epiphany, this earth-shattering experience that he was like “this just got real”. With so much word getting around about the music, along with the usage and habits, he ran with it.
Abel took the idea and general concept of the rawness Jeremy wanted but he morphed it into the ‘real deal’. Jeremy wanted tunes about straight getting tuned up, and having intercourse left right and centre but Trilogy became so much more. Abel rarely ever says “she” it’s always “you” which is why we grew such a connection as fans to him. We literally get the vibe he’s singing to us. There’s such a significant difference when you sing, “shots of the henny bottles of patron blunts to her face she don’t wanna sing no more lost her c-notes cabbed all day took the bus back home evictions on her door” rather then “shots of the henny bottles of patron blunts to your face you don’t wanna sing no more lost your c-notes cabbed all day took the bus back home evictions on your door“. We get this intimate feeling, especially if we are really going through that as listeners. XO/The Host could very well be about me – God knows I was in the position for too long and those are the vibes I get off of it.
I haven’t spoken or seen any of them in years probably since 2010 so now I speak pretty much as a fan. I feel more like a witness then an old friend cause I don’t really think we were ever friends we were just two messed up kids looking for the thrill, and my people just so happen to have what his people were looking for so our meeting was all by circumstance. If I knew it was going to lead here I woulda never dropped any of them!
Last thing I’ve got to explain is all the different opinions people are telling me about who Abel’s become. Some people tell me he’s still that same real chill laidback kid and others tell me he’s a flat out douche. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to judge for myself; Abel if you’re reading this you know I stay with the turn up ingredients and I stay in Miami. So yeah…. That’s it. One Love.”
T-Minus and The Weeknd working together in the studio, in 2008
For context, here are some of the accounts about The Weeknd during early adulthood (this would be around ’07, ’08. ’09) that were posted on the forum:
“Drake met Weeknd [Abel Tesfaye] when Weeknd was working at the American Apparel on Yonge street. This was during Drake’s mixtape days. They hung out a lot in hookah and Shisha bars in Toronto. Anyhow, Drake kept his word to the young Abel (then going by the name Kin Kane) and put on Weeknd and his boys once Drake got established. As the story goes, The Weeknd got into that darker side of the industry life, being introduced to coke, and progressed to becoming a full addict. He claims it helps him write all the depressing songs everyone loves.
“The combination of Abel being on made him highly paranoid, which is why he rarely does interviews and promos, etc. That’s another reason why Drake was annoyed. Drake feels the Weeknd isn’t capitalising off of his momentum, and is making rash decisions such as firing his assistant every other week because he’s so paranoid.
“One commentator from a blog said: The Weeknd NEVER did drugs initially. It was a music gimmick. He did it for people to think it was artsy fartsy eclectic music. He does drugs now, though. He is strung out as sh*t. As far as the white women [Weeknd] DON’T LIKE WOMEN PERIOD. There is an African man named Hassan that I met and he lived with Abel in downtown Toronto. Hassan doubles as an escort. I used to see him at Kensington Market buying dresses and wigs and what not. Abel doesn’t even have a legit crew. There are a few guys he grew up with that use him for his money. Some Somalian guy named Stix. And a Jamaican dude named Lamar. They use his likeness to get girls, get money and get on. I’m not sure if they know he is gay but they don’t respect him. AT ALL. All they want is his money, it is a come up to them. Abel’s cousins don’t even speak to him they think he shamed his “people” and that he’s strange. There is a girl, who people call a madame/pimp. Her name is Mona. She sets these dudes up with females all the time. And Abel never wants one. He usually zones out and passes out before the party can begin. It led people to believe he was suspect. Brandon Jennings stays tryna be friends with Weeknd. He keeps saying he wants to play in Toronto trying to mingle with Weeknd or his friends.
“The Weeknd’s “crew” take him for a joke, which is a well-known fact. And I have no issues with n*ggas preferences specially no Weeknd. I spit facts. Ho business is my business, I know these dudes and they think he’s flaming and a lame. Far as Lamar that dude clowns him to every chick he smashes. And don’t get me started on Stix.”