Abel Tesfayes tortured, genre-bending R& amp; B has brought him millions of fans, a triple platinum album and partnerships with Daft Punk and Beyonc. Will mainstream success attain him happy?
A degree of mystery attends the buildup to my meeting with Abel Tesfaye, the 26 -year-old Ethiopian-Canadian who for some time now ever since his stealth emergence as a recording artist in Toronto in 2010 has been constructing varied, often exceptional, ever more popular music under the assumed name of the Weeknd. It is early November. He has a new album thats nearly finished, a follow-up to last years 3.6 m-selling Beauty Behind The Madness, and at breathtakingly short notice I have been summoned to Rotterdam, where Tesfaye is due to sing a track from the new record at the MTV European Music awards, for a rare interview.
I was told, flying in, to expect some sort of audience around midnight. Later, if Tesfaye used to go partying after the gig. But orders change and I arrive at a hotel in Rotterdam in the early evening, a few hours before hes due on the MTV stage. From the lobby, Tesfayes bodyguard, Big Rob Feggans, whose nickname holds up, escorts me into a lift. Up a few levels, Feggans leads the route along a hallway and at the end of it knocks on a door, summoning out another member of the Weeknds entourage. This man emerges to take two brisk steps across the hallway and knock on another door. Theres a plate of done-with chicken on the floor outside Tesfayes room. We wait beside it.
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