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The Weeknd Discusses Past Drug Use: 'Drugs Were A Crutch For Me'

By Seth Ferranti 12/05/16

"When you’re in a dark hole, at an earlier point in your life - you write about the mindset you’re in at that moment.”

The Weeknd Discusses Past Drug Use: 'Drugs Were A Crutch For Me'
Photo via YouTube

The Weeknd’s biggest hit, “Can’t Feel My Face” is a song about a complicated relationship with drug dependency. With the cryptic lyrics, “And I know she'll be the death of me/at least we'll both be numb/And she'll always get the best of me/the worst is yet to come," The Weeknd alludes to his obsession with the unnamed drug.

The 26-year-old artist—who emerged from the Toronto scene when fellow Canadian, Drake, heard his soulful mixtape—freely admits that drugs helped to shape his music, but says that he’s past that now. 

“When I had nothing to do but make music, it was very heavy. Drugs were a crutch for me,” said the artist, born Abel Tesfaye, to The Guardian. “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.”

In “The Hills,” which was on the singer's breakout 2015 record Beauty Behind the Madness , Abel sings, “When I'm fucked up, that's the real me/When I'm fucked up, that's the real me.” Pitchfork called the hit song "a dark, almost discordant meditation on lust, drugs, and fame."

In late November, in an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1, The Weeknd talked about how a battle with nerves led him to drink while performing at the start of his career. "I used to go on stage drunk...I would drink a bottle of Hennessy on stage at my first shows. Coachella, the first show ever, I was drunk. To take the edge off."

He looked at the performance and didn't like what he saw, so he decided that something had to change. "After that Coachella festival, I was performing nonstop sober. I learned how to perform on my own...You have to fight the nerves."  

Abel admitted to The Guardian that “the mind of a 19-year-old is very different from the mind of a 26-year-old. You grow. You get into better relationships. You experience more, meet more people, better people. But when you’re in a dark hole, at an earlier point in your life - you write about the mindset you’re in at that moment.”

The music is cathartic for The Weeknd and probably works the same way for his fans. But to the songwriter, it is just what he does—he suffers for his art with his on and off again love affair with drugs. 

“I’ll be completely honest with you. The past couple of albums, I do get back to that,” he said. “Even on this new album. You have writer’s block. And sometimes you’re like, I can’t do this sober. Right now, I feel in control. Where it takes me after, I don’t know.”

But wherever it takes him, Abel will keep making honest and raw music.

“I don’t think I’d ever apologize for the music I make, no,” he says. “But there are regrets in my life, of course. And you write about it.” 

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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