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Toronto Rap Icons - EP2: The Weeknd

The Weeknd is our guest in the second part of our new concept Toronto’s Icons. Let's dive into the personal life and music career of The 2021 Grammy-winning artist.

Early Life

Born Abel Tesfaye in Scarborough, Ontario on February 16, 1990, he grew up listening to different genres of music, from the soul, quiet storm, hip hop, funk, indie rock, to post-punk.

The Weeknd dropped out of high school at 17. One day he left one weekend and didn't come home with some of his friends. It was where his rap nickname came out. It was supposed to be The Weekend but got modified to avoid copyright with a Canadian band of the same name.

The Weeknd is the son of Ethiopian emigrants, he grew up above Toronto in a multicultural community loaded with East Africans, as well as people from the Middle East, India, China, and the Caribbean.

He is trilingual since Ethiopian — Amharic — was the first language he learned to speak with because his grandma, who raised him with his mother, would not speak English. He later went to French immersion school where he learned French, while he learned English from television and the streets.

The Weeknd had to work his path up from the bottom. “I was thinking the film was going to be my way out, but I couldn’t make it to feel better, you know? Music was very direct therapy; it was immediate and people enjoyed it. It undoubtedly saved my life.”

First Steps Into Music

Tesfaye worked on his music alone and performed from clubs to clubs, on the street, and online till he finally got scope from Rolling Stone, New York Times, and other magazines and journals. His fans expanded ever since.

He dropped his first mixtape "The House of Balloons" in 2011. Containing tracks he composed over the years, he dropped two more street albums "Thursday" and "Echoes of Silence" for free in the same year. Both albums received acceptable reviews from critics.

With his three mixtapes, he developed an enigmatic darkened persona that put him beyond his competitors.

2012 was a great year for Toronto's rappers. He performed at Coachella Music Festival in 2012. But his first official debut didn't was delayed to 2013. "Kiss Land", featuring sole guest Drake, get in Billboard Hot 200 at No. 2 and ended R7B/Hip-Hop Albums. The album received positive reviews from music critics and generated three singles; "Belong to the World" and Drake-assisted "Live For".

Following his new album's release, The Weeknd promoted it with "King of the Fall" as a headlining for its tour in 2014. SchoolBoy Q and Jhene Aiko were supporting the shows.

In May 2015, The Weeknd started promoting his new album by releasing a new song called "The Hills" with its music video.

A few weeks later, another song titled "Can't Feel My Face" leaked online. It went on to become the artist's biggest hit, reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100.

The Weeknd ended off 2015 by joining Future on the rapper's "Low Life" and releasing his remixed edition of Jeremih's "Pass Dat".

A few months later, he appeared on "FML" off Kanye West's long-awaited album "The Life of Pablo" and on "6 Inch" from Beyonce Knowles' "Lemonade".

The Weeknd struck hard for years, using his talent and his sharp style to collaborate with the biggest artists in the rap game. Features Daft Punk in ‘’Starboy’’, Kanye West in ‘’The Life Of Pablo’’ and on ‘’6 Inch’’ from Beyonce Knowles's project ‘’Lemonade’’.

The StarBoy put the king's crown on his discography by releasing his latest album ‘’Dawn FM’’ which is the fifth studio album by the Canadian rapper.

It was released on January 7, 2022, via XO and Republic Records. The album features narration by Jim Carrey, guest vocals by Tyler, the Creator, and Lil Wayne, and spoken word appearances from Quincy Jones and Josh Safdie.

It's a Toronto Thing; Drake Introducing The Weekend in 2010

Drake initially introduced the then-little-known rapper to his fanbase in 2010 by broadcasting two of the upcoming Canadian artist’s songs on his October's Very Own blog.

After the two later met in 2011 while The Weeknd was promoting his debut House of Balloons mixtape, Drake invited him to collaborate on his Take Care track “Crew Love” the same year. "If you want to mention evolution — a quick evolution — that's somebody who, everywhere I went, they love him," Drake told MTV in 2012. "We're a family. It's a Toronto thing.”

With a unique childhood and a sharped personality, The Weeknd build a different style and hit which took him to the top of the game in a few years. The Weeknd is now among the top-selling rappers worldwide.


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