For more than a year, Toronto singer and Drake affiliate Abel Tesfaye, aka the Weeknd, was the hottest unsigned R&B artist since Frank Ocean. The three mixtapes he released for free through his website in 2011 ("House of Balloons," "Thursday," "Echoes of Silence"), sparked a media frenzy ("House of Balloons" was nominated for Canada's Polaris Music Prize) and led to him selling out his first U.S. tour last spring in less than five minutes.
But since signing with Republic in September in a joint venture with his own XO imprint, the Weeknd is attempting the transition from indie favorite to mainstream star with Trilogy, a rerelease of his mixtapes that includes three bonus songs and arrives Nov. 13. Though the three-disc album will top out at 30 tracks, it'll be priced like a single CD, with a suggested price of $14.99 for the CD and $9.99 on iTunes.
The tactic of repackaging free online projects for commercial release is increasingly common in hip-hop (Drake sold 675,000 copies of his repackaged breakout mixtape, "So Far Gone," according to Nielsen SoundScan), but it's tricky to pull off for artists who build their songs around samples. Ocean scuttled plans to rerelease his "Nostalgia/Ultra" mixtape through Island Def Jam earlier this year after failing to clear key samples (and dodging lawsuits) from acts like the Eagles. (Ocean's major-label debut, "Channel Orange," contained all new material and bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in July.) But the press-shy Weeknd tells Billboard that although the Trilogy samples were "killing me," he was able to get clearance from acts like Beach House ("The Party & the After Party") and Siouxsie and the Banshees ("Glass Table Girls"). Only his use of Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat" on fan favorite "What You Need" failed to make the CD.