The Weeknd Talks About Success, Taylor Swift, and Being a ‘F*cking Weirdo’

The Weeknd opened up to Rolling Stone about his success for their November cover story.

The rapper, who has just scored his second number one hit (in a row) started out as a shy musician from Toronto. Now, 25-year-old Abel Tesfaye can check ‘make the cover of Rolling Stone’ off his list of impressive accomplishments.

The Weeknd Rolling Stone
CREDIT: Mark Seliger/Rolling Stone magazine

The Canadian, who declined formal interviews when he first started out, told the publication that not finishing school played a big part in that decision. “Me not finishing school— in my head, I still have this insecurity when I’m talking to someone educated,” he says. “I don’t want them looking at me like this fucking retard— no disrespect,” he said.

Plus, when he started generating more buzz, he realized he could “run with the whole enigmatic thing,” as he puts it. “If it backfired, I probably would have been doing interviews. But people were kind of liking me being a fucking weirdo.”

The Weeknd also talked about how his friend Drake played a big part in his initial exposure by featuring him on his album, Take Care.  “I gave up almost half of my album. It’s hard. I will always be thankful— if it wasn’t for the light he shined on me, who knows where I’d be. And everything happens for a reason,” he said.

These days, the rapper has reached massive success with songs like “I Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills.” It’s something he definitely didn’t expect. “At the time, I thought I’d be a punk star— grow my hair out, acne on my face, super-fucking-skinny. I was looking at artists like Iggy Pop and the Ramones, or Afropunk. But you evolve and realize your potential. And then it’s like, ‘Fuck yeah. Let’s go.'”

When it comes to his signature hair, The Weeknd says he grew it out in an effort to be different. “I want to be remembered as iconic and different. So I was like, ‘Fuck it— I’m gonna let my hair just be what it wants,'” he said. And whatever he’s doing, it certainly worked on Taylor Swift. The rapper says he was at a Grammys afterparty when he first met her.

“She actually schooled me on my own shit. She was like, ‘I’ve been listening to “The Morning” for years— it’s one of my favorite songs ever!’ I mean, she might have just Googled it. But she seemed genuine,” he said. “But the whole time she was talking, she was kind of, like, petting my hair? I think she was just drawn to it— she must have been a little gone off a few drinks. And of course I’m not going to be like, ‘Hey, can you stop?’ I mean, it felt good!”