Today he's one of the world's biggest pop stars, but back when Abel Tesfaye was an Ethiopian youth who spent his entire life in Toronto, he learned how music and sex and drugs could help his mind travel. In 2011 he created a triptych of mixtapes with an eerily foreboding​ vibe and a lyrical rawness that mesmerized the Internet and entranced Drake. Until he gave his first ever interview in 2013 few could figure out the inspiration for his utterly fresh sound. "My inspiration is R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, and Prince, for the vocals anyway," he told Damien Scott in that groundbreaking Q&A. He went on to elaborate that the music surrounding these vocals had nothing to do with R&B. From the falsetto to the lyrical shock value to the genre-bending eclecticism—it's hard to imagine The Weeknd without Prince as a template.