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Source Material

Source Material: The Weeknd

by Barry Walters

Source Material: The Weeknd


Some acts sample other acts and it means nothing -- they just want that beat. When The Weeknd's Abel Tesfaye and his collaborators pillage sounds from other records, they're more than building on the atmosphere, texture, words and aesthetics of artists who came before them: They're telling their own stories through the musical narratives of others; that's what lovers do when exchanging mixtapes.

This Toronto singer entered public consciousness in 2011 via three such self-released mixtapes -- House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence -- collectively issued the next year as Trilogy. While other R&B singers typically draw from kindred soul musicians, Tesfaye and his producers Illangelo and former Esthero member Doc McKinney were coming up with stuff that sampled and sounded like current indie rock, vintage goth, dream pop, trip-hop, experimental blues, even yé-ye. The hybrid results instantly rippled through the pop, R&B and hip-hop worlds; their influences were suddenly influencing the likes of Drake.

Tesfaye's latest album, Kiss Land, isn't ostensibly a mixtape, but it's still pieced together like one: There are prominent and substantial samples all over the place. And although he, Illangelo and McKinney have already gone their separate ways, Tesfaye's new collaborators, like Danny Boy Styles, are drawing from a similarly broad pallette.

To highlight all these musical colors, we've collected a bunch of Weeknd tracks and laid them back-to-back with their sources. We've also included a couple of key McKinney productions, a new cut from Illangelo and a trio of crucial sources for the singer that he has yet to sample.

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