The Shady Side Of The Weeknd

The world better knows Abel Tesfaye as The Weeknd, one of this decade's top hitmakers with tunes like "Can't Feel My Face," "Save Your Tears," and the ultra-viral "Blinding Lights." The Toronto-area native caught the attention of music superstar Drake early in his career, and the rest has been Billboard chart-making history. He's collaborated with a stacked lineup of music's finest, including Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar, and Daft Punk, and his high-profile relationships with Bella Hadid and Selena Gomez haven't hurt his status, either. 

But there is a shadier side to the "Starboy" that fans of the Super Bowl halftime show performer may not know. For example, the origins of his signature dark and mysterious sound and stage name change depending on where the information comes from. Of course, becoming one of the biggest names in entertainment doesn't come without strains on professional relationships, nor without the intense scrutiny that often comes from being in the spotlight, including the idea that his lyrics may be problematic, per StudyBreaks

Let's take a look into the shady side of The Weeknd. 

He abruptly moved out of his single mom's house

Abel Tesfaye has been open about his "dark" past and drug use, which all started when he abruptly decided to drop out of high school at the age of 17, he told The Guardian in 2015. He and his friend, La Mar Taylor, decided to move into a one-bedroom apartment closer to Toronto, much to the disappointment of his mother, who had raised him. Tesfaye told The New York Times Magazine that she gave him "the worst look anyone could ever have" when he and Taylor loaded his mattress into a van and drove away from his childhood home.

The "Can't Feel My Face" singer told the publication that the duo's new lifestyle consisted of stealing food from grocery stores to keep from going hungry and spending the money they did have on drugs, including ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, mushrooms, and cough syrup. He also said they hosted parties at their place, where they invited numerous girls over to hang out. 

"I could have ruined my whole life by dropping out of school. The consequences might have been horrible," he reflected to The Guardian.

A friend accused him of stealing the name The Weeknd and dumping him

Music producer Jeremy "Zodiac" Rose claimed to be the man behind The Weeknd's breakout singles "What You Need," "Loft Music," and "The Morning (Original Version)." In a 2012 interview with Vice, Rose alleged that he developed Abel Tesfaye's signature dark and "grimy" sound, though his name is nowhere to be found on the "House of Balloons" mixtape. He also claimed he never received a penny for the project.

Rose explained that the two went their separate ways when Tesfaye wanted to work on "club tracks" and no longer wanted the producer's opinion on their collaborations. He also claimed that he gave the "Starboy" his stage name. "We started as a group; it was he and I, and we called ourselves 'The Weekend,'" Rose said. "I came up with that name, by the way."

However, Tesfaye remembered the change differently during a Reddit AMA in 2012. "I took out the 'e' because there was already a canadian band named the weekend (copyright issues)." When Vice reporter Patrick McGuire reached out to Tesfaye's team for comment, he said he received nothing more than a message saying the singer had "no comment."

The Weeknd's beef with Drake

Abel Tesfaye gained mainstream attraction thanks to singer and rapper Drake, who worked with and promoted the "House of Balloons" singer's music. The "Hotline Bling" megastar talked openly about wanting to sign Tesfaye to his OVO Sound label, but Tesfaye ended up going with Republic Records, per XXL. This caused the first reported rift in the two Canadian musicians' relationship, and fans wondered if Drake was referring to Tesfaye in a 2012 tweet, where he wrote, "You won't get away with just a thank you ... you owe me a favor."

The two smoothed things over a year later and continued to work together. But things got dicey again when Tesfaye revealed to Rolling Stone in 2015 that he "gave up almost half" of the songs meant for his "House of Balloons" mixtape to Drake for his critically acclaimed "Take Care" album. 

Drake addressed the allegation in a 2017 Instagram comment, per Complex, responding to a user's comment: "Abel Tesfaye CO WROTE on 'Shot For Me' and 'Practice,' obviously was featured on 'Crew Love' and 'The Ride' and that's it. There's 20 songs on that album ... don't try me."

He's faced multiple plagiarism lawsuits

Abel Tesfaye has faced several plagiarism allegations, starting with his 2015 hit "The Hills," per The Hollywood Reporter. A lawsuit filed by Cutting Edge Music Limited came after the singer, his producers, and music labels for allegedly stealing the bassline from the score of the 2013 sci-fi movie "The Machine." It alleged producer Emmanuel "Million Dollar Mano" Nickerson sent the composer of the movie a direct message on Twitter, telling him a sample of the score may appear on Tesfaye's "Beauty Behind the Madness" album.

His most recent lawsuit came from producers Suniel Fox and Henry Strange in 2021, when they alleged Tesfaye's "Call Out My Name" was "strikingly and/or substantially similar, if not identical" to their 2015 song "Vibeking," reported Pitchfork. The document, per Digital Music News, explained that Strange sent "Vibeking" to Tesfaye's producer, PNDA, who then played it for the singer. The "Try Me" star allegedly called the track "fire" on two separate occasions, but didn't do anything with it until a year later. Strange alleged that PDNA said he would tell Tesfaye that his team of producers penned the tune because the "Starboy" "didn't know" who Strange was.

As of this writing, there has been no resolution to Tesfaye's most recent plagiarism suit. 

He publicly shaded the Grammys

The success of The Weeknd's "After Hours" album and its viral hit "Blinding Lights" seemed like obvious candidates for Grammy nominations, but that assumption would be wrong. The "Heartless" artist did not receive a single nomination at the 2021 awards, which prompted rumors of skewed politics within the Recording Academy. Abel Tesfaye added fuel to the fire himself, tweeting, "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency..."

The rumored explanation of the snub was that the artist had to choose between being recognized by the Grammys or performing at the Super Bowl LV halftime show. We all know which one he allegedly chose, and a Recording Academy spokesperson addressed the drama months later.

"Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists," Harvey Mason Jr. of the Recording Academy said in a statement to NBC News. "To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before Tesfaye's performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process."

He's been accused of toxic masculinity in his lyrics

The Weeknd is known for his dark, sensual, and overtly sexual lyrics that some call misogynistic, per StudyBreaks. An Esquire reporter confronted Abel Tesfaye on his frequent use of "b***hes" to describe women in a 2020 interview. Specifically referring to "The Hills" lyric: "I just f*** two b***hes 'fore I saw you," the reporter asked if Tesfaye calls women that in his everyday life.

"It's definitely a character," Tesfaye said. "When you hear some of the drastic stuff, you can tell. I mean, that's why it's tricky because it is me singing the words; it is my writing. It's like you want people to feel a certain way. You want them to feel angry. You want them to feel sad. You want them to feel. It's never, like, my intent to offend anybody."

While Tesfaye explained that he will never apologize for what he said in his music, he did admit that the tunes he wrote when he was 19 were a little harder for him to listen to than the tracks he wrote as a more experienced adult.

He may be dating his ex's best friend

Forget a love triangle, Abel Tesfaye may have himself a love octagon. Recently, the singer has been spotted kissing DJ Simi Khadra, per TMZ, during the singer's birthday party at a Las Vegas club.

Khadra is close friends — or at least was — with Tesfaye's on-again-off-again girlfriend, Bella Hadid. Khadra and her twin sister were often photographed with the supermodel over the years. Sources have told Arab News that Hadid unfollowed the twins' joint Instagram account after pictures of the rumored new couple surfaced.

Tesfaye's other former flame, Selena Gomez, is also friends with the Khadras. Still, the rumored romance between her friend and former lover seemingly hasn't gotten in the way of Gomez's friendship with the DJ. Gomez posted a picture alongside the twins on Instagram in February 2022 with the caption "Since 2013" and blue heart emoji. Gomez is even hugging Khadra in the second photo. There doesn't seem to be any "Bad Blood" between them, but it seems that might not be the case with Hadid.