Abel Tesfaye, better known as breakout pop/R&B sensation the Weeknd, has a magic pen when it comes to turning his pain into pleasure-filled hits about sex, love and drugs. On his song “The Hills” he sings, “When I’m f—-d up/That’s the real me” and the lyric – like many of his others – comes from life experiences that are as deep and dark as the tracks he sings over.
Before finding fame as R&B’s resident mystery man Tesfaye admits that behind his towering sense of self-confidence lurked a dark past. “I didn’t have a father figure in the house. No boys around. Just me and my mom,” the bad boy vocalist recently told The Guardian of his upbringing.
At the age of 17, Tesfaye dropped out of high school and moved out of his mother’s home into a one-bedroom apartment in a suburb of Toronto with his pal La Mar Taylor, where he turned to drugs like Ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, mushrooms and cough syrup as a way to escape.
“When I had nothing to do but make music, it was very heavy. Drugs were a crutch for me. There were songs on my first record that were seven minutes long, rambling – whatever thoughts I was having when I was under the influence at the time. I can’t see myself doing that now,” he continued.
However, after a few run-ins with the law – including a few “nights in jail” – the singer admitted it was “bad enough for me to smarten up, to focus.”
The crooner went on to confess he still uses in the creative sense, adding that on “The past couple of albums, I do get back to that [drugs] — Even on this new album. You have writer’s block. And sometimes you’re like, I can’t do this sober.”
Still, according to Tesfaye he’s neither addicted nor has he ever sought treatment for drug abuse. “No. Definitely not,” he told The Guardian. “I think that’s more when you’re privileged, you know? Going to a therapist is not something you do when you’re growing up as a street kid in Toronto.”