Little over a decade after he was kicked out of school at 17, The Weeknd is currently worth an estimated $57 million.
At just 29 The Weeknd, born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, is one of the best-selling artists in the world. He has sold out arenas worldwide and worked on the soundtrack to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. Beyond music he has his own comic book with Marvel, a record label (XO), and training academy (HXOUSE).
If a successful work life wasn’t enough, Abel also appears to be doing OK in his personal life having reunited with girlfriend Bella Hadid last year. Bella herself is one of the most dominant faces in the modelling industry today with bookings rivalled, possibly only by her sister, Gigi Hadid. Powerful alone you put two stars together and it’s like 1+1 = 4.
Born in Ethiopia but raised in Toronto, Abel was first thrust into the spotlight through ‘The Zone’. A collaboration with fellow Toronto rapper, Drake. His voice was striking. As was the way Abel used R&B style vocals over the top of more electronic sounding beats.
In 2011, after getting his name out there, Abel slipped into the studio and created three mixtapes in a year. Since then, he’s released three more albums, opting to focus on output, rather than tours (which are where the money is made).
His first US number one single came from the second album ‘Beauty Behind The Madness‘. The album itself also went to Number 1 in the US, Canada and the UK.
“I went from staring at the same four walls for 21 years. To seeing the whole world in just twelve months.” – The Weeknd
So what of this Tumblr?
Well, despite having his face all over billboards, Abel is quite a private person, only doing his first press interview after the release of his third album, ‘Starboy’. The interview was with Zane Lowe for Beats Radio and it focused on his creative process and partners. As part of it, he mentioned that he used to have a Tumblr account and someone in the savvy public found it.
The account is still live and features posts from October 2009 – January 2011; right before he blew up.
And what of it?
Well, firstly the blog is named ‘Illiterate Abel’, which is rather humbling. The byline is taken from the famous Edith Piath song: Je Ne Regret Rien (I regret nothing).
The content includes references to artists Abel admired at the time; primarily Daft Punk. Daft Punk were the French DJ and production duo who The Weeknd collaborated on for the title track of his ‘Starboy’ album. It also features some less expected shout outs, including one to the cult indie movie ‘Thirteen’ and some lyrics of Nickelback’s ‘Hero’.
The Tumblr gives a fairly priceless insight into a mind that is building a music and culture empire today. The influences which have worked in his mind to create a superstar. Being able to see it is a bit like having access to Damien Hirst’s scrapbook, or Neil Gaiman’s journal. These creative giants were once unknown creative types collecting inspiration. Abel’s journey to stardom was relatively rapid but with new projects and collaborations announcing themselves all the time, Abel’s impact on music is likely to only grow.
Check it before it disappears: Illiterate Abel.