The star, 30, who released his new album After Hours last month, candidly revealed that he believes his 2011 mixtape House of Balloons is what influenced Usher, 41, to experiment with what’s now The Weeknd’s signature alternative R&B style.
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“House of Balloons literally changed the sound of pop music before my eyes,” the Weeknd said in Variety’s latest cover story. “I heard ‘Climax,’ that Usher song, and was like, ‘Holy f—, that’s a Weeknd song.’”
Though the singer says he was initially upset after hearing Usher’s tune, he ultimately took the project as a compliment to his musical flow. “It was very flattering,” The Weeknd told the outlet. “I knew I was doing something right, but I also got angry. But the older I got, I realized it’s a good thing.”
Reps for The Weeknd and Usher did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
At the time he released his mixtape, The Weeknd’s career hadn’t fully blown up and he was still working to gain mainstream notoriety for his unique artistry — which he and his team believe other musicians are now duplicating.
“People saw the rise, but have no idea how hard Abel and our small team worked for years before we got the recognition,” his manager Wassim Slaiby told the outlet. “Abel created this whole new R&B wave everyone is on now.”
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“The production actually started as a house thing with a chord progression that I wrote, but with some time in the studio alone, I was making a sort of ‘wildfire’ beat out of it,” Diplo told The Guardian in 2012, the year the track dropped. “The idea of pushing cut-off on a synth used so much in progressive house music but pulling back. I was making something like a minimal techno record with Atlanta strip clubs in mind.”
Reps for Diplo did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“Usher has the power to take a record into any lane,” Diplo said at the time. “He’s that big. He brought house music to the R&B crowds in America, and with ‘Yeah!’ he brought synths to Atlanta hip-hop. I think he wasn’t going to these producers for their sounds. … We all know what they do. Usher is a smart man, he has been doing this for long enough. He’s using the producers instead of the other way around.”
This isn’t the first time The Weeknd and Usher have been entangled in headlines.
In 2016, The Weeknd apologized to the R&B star after he mistakenly said he was the most awarded male R&B vocalist in Billboard Music Awards’ history.