"Oliver was the one vouching for me."The then-anonymous Tesfaye declined all interviews.

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After rehearsal, Tesfaye is in the greenroom with his two managers, 31-year-old Amir "Cash" Esmailian and 35-year-old Tony Sal.

Cash is a first-generation Iranian-Canadian sweetheart who occasionally yells things into the phone like, "You may as well bend me over a table, bro!

" 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.

"I just started being fancy, to be honest," he says. I didn't like the way I looked in pictures — when I saw myself on a digital camera, I was like, ''" Instead of his face, his album art and videos featured black-and-white photos of artful nudes — a topless girl in a bathtub, a woman's ass in a party dress.

"Like, I just started learning how to pronounce what I'm wearing." He imitates a snooty shopgirl: "' It's not Bal-When he first started recording as the Weeknd, Tesfaye was an unlikely star. The aesthetic was American Apparel-style hipster catnip, right down to the Helvetica font.

"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.

Tesfaye is just the 12th artist in history to score back-to-back Number Ones, a group that includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Taylor Swift.