To his fans, the Weeknd is quite mysterious. Though the Toronto singer/songwriter stayed plenty busy putting out three free albums online last year, he has shied away from the spotlight, making very few public appearances and doing only a small number of interviews.
While he remains an enigma to fans, to Drake, Noah "40" Shebib and the entire October's Very Own team, the Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) is family.
"Weeknd is obviously someone very close to us and our family. He's from Toronto and someone we've been associated with and working with for quite some time," Shebib told MTV News when we visited Toronto in December. "So that's close to home, that's easy. He's in and out of the studio whatever the case is — that's family."
Weeknd released his first album House of Balloons in March, then its follow-up Thursday in August and then completed the trilogy with Echoes of Silence in December. His music has no doubt caused a stir, and he was most recently tapped to perform at the upcoming Coachella music festival. Two key appearances on Drake's Take Care also did a lot to raise the Weeknd's musical profile. His soulful wails drive Drizzy's pulsating hometown dedication "Crew Love." Even to the unfamiliar, it's impossible not to notice Tesfaye's key contribution.
" 'Crew Love' was just a moment for Drake, as far as the content of the record and what was going on around him in his life and his people and his team and how much he cares for them," 40 explained. "That was just an important record for him to make, and the Weeknd was someone that he wanted to include on that, and that made sense."
On "The Ride," the Weeknd contributes in a different way, blending his vocals into the background of the track while Drake raps throughout. It's almost as if the emerging vocalist is an instrument, rather than a guest on the track. " 'The Ride' was really just a vibe, it was a vibe that the Weeknd caught, and it was just so crazy that Drake wanted to rap on it," Shebib said. "On 'The Ride,' he's definitely an instrument, and he's singing all through Drake's vocals."
It is all a great introduction for an artist with a ton of potential, but as for what the Weeknd has planned next, no one really knows. "He's not interested in playing the game right now," Shebib said. "He wants to put out his music, and I think when he's finished putting out his music, he'll reassess his feelings on the game."
After our interview with 40, the Weeknd released the third mixtape in his trilogy (Echoes of Silence), and now we wait to see what's next.
Miss any of our exclusive interview with Noah "40" Shebib? Check out his track-by-track breakdown of Take Care, his thoughts on the Rihanna-featuring title track and why he isn't competing with Kanye West.