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The cold caught up with him yesterday, during a signing for 500 squealing fans at the Oxford Circus HMV. "We live in an era when everything is so excessive, I think it's refreshing for everybody to be like, ' Who the fuck is this guy? "I think that's why my career is going to be so long: Because I haven't given people everything."Spend just five minutes with him, though, and he reveals himself: sweet, soft-spoken, surprisingly earnest.

When I tell him he's not what I expected, he nods.

There are Tumblrs and website listicles devoted to it; when I told the immigration agent at Heathrow what I was doing in the U.

"Sorry, I'm sick," he says, as his handshake becomes a fist bump in midair. ")This scene would not have seemed possible in 2011, when the Weeknd appeared with a trio of cult-favorite mixtapes that established both his sonic template — drug-drenched, indie-rock-sampling, sex-dungeon R&B — and his mysterious, brooding persona.

Since starting this promo tour a week ago, he's been to Las Vegas, Paris, Berlin and now London. A press-shy Ethiopian kid from Toronto who has given only a handful of interviews, he has cultivated a near-mythical image as a bed-hopping, pill-popping, chart-topping cipher.

"I was everything an R&B singer wasn't," he says. Early Weeknd songs were atmospheric and chilly, their thick narcotic haze sliced by his broken-glass falsetto.

The lyrics were an addiction counselor's worst nightmare: pills, pain, shame, serotonin, danger.

But even then, few would have pegged Tesfaye for the global superstar he is now — least of all him. "At the time, I thought I'd be a punk star — grow my hair out, acne on my face, super-fucking-skinny.

I was looking at artists like Iggy Pop and the Ramones, or Afropunk. And then it's like, ' And now, a few words about the hair: The Weeknd's hair is by far his most recognizable trait."When people meet me, they say that I'm really kind — contrary to a lot of my music."When talking about his art and his career, Tesfaye is blessed with a towering self-confidence and has no hesitation about declaring his own greatness."People tell me I'm changing the culture," he says. I think I'm gonna drop one more album, one more powerful body of work, then take a little break — go to Tokyo or Ethiopia or some shit." Hearing him boast about talking shop with Bono, or name-dropping "Naomi Campbell, who's a good friend of mine now," you may be tempted to see a diva in the making; or you may see a 25-year-old guy who's stoked and incredulous to be in the position he's in. " In a darkened soundstage on the outskirts of London, Abel Tesfaye is wondering if he can say "fuck" or not.Tesfaye, better known as breakout pop sensation the Weeknd, is at a rehearsal for , the BBC music show, about to soundcheck his smash hit "The Hills," a four-minute horror-movie booty call featuring more than a dozen f-bombs.After rehearsal, Tesfaye is in the greenroom with his two managers, 31-year-old Amir "Cash" Esmailian and 35-year-old Tony Sal.

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