The number of songs available to stream for a small monthly fee is in the millions, with more being added by the second. Having the opportunity to explore an endless number of options is why the value placed on album replay should not be understated. Curiosity is reason enough to visit a body of work, but it's how often you return that matters.
6LACK's Gold-certified debut album FREE 6LACK is an album I've returned to often since it’s 2016 release. The project is perfect for midnight drives, deadline distress, or thoughtful musing during the hour of the owl. 6LACK isn’t bleak, but he does sound best once there is no sun in the sky.
The East Atlanta-born singer-songwriter and rapper is also a talented mood-crafter. He knows the words, production, and stylistic approach to present his perspective in ways that captivate. 6LACK brings a modern take to past melodic hybrids like T-Pain and The-Dream, but with a pen and voice uniquely his. It’s easy to be another brick in music’s wall when all hands hold the same tools, but 6LACK is an artist building from his own blueprint.
FREE 6LACK was 6LACK's introduction. Now, two years later, 6LACK returns for his second impression with his sophomore album, East Atlanta Love Letter. He’s going into this new record without a hit record like his breakout single “PRBLMS,” but the anticipation remains high. FREE 6LACK displayed an artist who makes songs that last, on or off the Billboard charts.
The sophomore jinx hasn’t been a term used much over the last few years, but I consider the possibilities each time a promising talent makes their return. This is 6LACK's chance to prove himself to anyone questioning whether or not he's here to stay.
In usual 1-Listen album review fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. Are you in the mood yet?
6LACK season begins. I'm liking the suspenseful buildup with the chords playing in reverse. 6LACK begins by saying he hopes his mistakes won’t make him less of a man. I’m already in my feelings. He has a voice that’s soft, gentle, but carries enough weight to be felt. It's like being punched in the face with a Socker Bopper. His seamless transition from rapping to singing is always a nice gear change. These notes he’s hitting. Drums just dropped. Production is the same shade of midnight black that’s found across FREE 6LACK. I wonder if this is an early sign that he’s keeping the same template, but remastered.
2. "Loaded Gun"
The song title has me anxious. Nice 808 knock. The melodic flow works well. I like the production, sounds like gray clouds before the rainfall. “Pretty brown brown,” Juvie homage on the hook. 6LACK isn’t wrong about the East Atlanta wings. I like this record. It's a vibe, as the kids say, but it’s also too close to what I know him for. He’s not quite an old dog using old tricks, but the familiarity hurts when you are looking forward to something unexpected and new. I love that he calls his daughter a Kirkwood baby. Still, despite the close relation to records familiar, “Loaded Gun” is still a good song.
3. "East Atlanta Love Letter" ft. Future
I've been looking forward to this tag team since “Ex Calling.” Future has a voice that should be narrating 1960s noir cop dramas. Maybe in his next life. 6LACK is leading this one. He sounds great. The slow mood is excellent thus far. Future and 6LACK singing duet-style has caused my headphones to suddenly catch a fever. If they may overheat I’m perfectly okay with that outcome. Summer in Southern California isn’t hotter than this record. Future sounds like he recorded this verse after a drug detox. His vocals are as clear and pure as his skin complexion. Okay, I know we have had too many collaboration albums but WE NEED 6LACK and Future to give us an R&B album. Future just went into a rap verse and I’m crying codeine. A superb keeper. Beautiful strings to bring this one to the close. East Atlanta will be proud.
4. "Let Her Go"
That was a worthwhile collaboration. I want to go back but we must move forward. 6LACK knows his sound. This one slaps, though. Nice trap bounce with a slick flow. What is that sound in the beat? There are a lot of textures I’m hearing in the album’s production. He’s putting more emphasis on layering these records with sound. He’s taking off on the second verse. In a few years, I can see 6LACK being the prototype for all hybrid artists. Good record. A woman's voicemail ends the record.
The woman’s voice seamlessly transitioned into "Sorry." It sounds like 6LACK is pulling tricks from The-Dream’s playbook. I hope he continues the suite. He’s singing his black heart out. The mood is easy to get lost in. 6LACK makes real relationship records. Too real for Love & Hip-Hop. It’s the kind of honesty that sounds sincere. When he sings of mistakes, you feel how sorry he is. These aren’t manufactured feelings for the sake of a song, but a song for the sake of these emotions. The lyric “I'mma write when I’m wrong” is all the confirmation I need. The usage of strings is a beautiful texture that I don’t recall from his debut. I’m enjoying this immensely.
6. "Pretty Little Fears" ft. J. Cole
He’s rapping out of the gate. When the shadow of 6LACK's rapper past comes out it’s a treat. Production is beautifully minimal, sitting in the background with presence but without being too gripping. He’s practically rapping and singing on gentle ocean waves. The “Love Galore” bar was nice. These 6LACK hums are coming for Cudi’s hum's neck, I stan. This is a very blissful record. I don’t know if that was the intent, but I feel very soothed and cozy. J. Cole just arrived, that wasn’t a sleepy joke by the way. I actually like Cole on these types of records, he has the penmanship for intimate songs. We don’t talk about his verse on “Warm Enough” enough. Calm, cool, collective Cole delivered. The verse sounds dedicated to his wife. He's giving a poetry reading. Very heartfelt. Wait, the Cole hum might be even more potent than 6LACK and Cudi. Another winning record.
It doesn’t feel like six records have been played. Okay, this is by far the most experimental 6LACK production yet. The electric guitar sounds like it’s having a seizure and these synths are more frantic than ants after you step on their hill. He’s keeping it slow, but there’s a layer of madness in this buildup unique to 6LACK. Ah, the production vanished. He’s singing over some deep piano keys. I’m calling him 6lica Keys from now on. 6allad 6LACK. “Love is not looking over shoulders, love is you should trust what I told you.” Trust and communication are recurring concepts that he explores that I will never get tired of. 6LACK paints the problems with a clarity that puts you in the eye of whatever storm he’s wrapped in. Another voicemail from a woman. I think all R&B albums should have a strong woman's presence even if they aren’t a singing feature. The muse deserves a voice.
This is a single that grew on me. It didn’t hit instantly, but I’ve grown to really enjoy it. Are those Ty Dolla background vocals? He’s uncredited but I'd know those harmonies anywhere. The Freaky Friday body switch concept was ruined by Lil Dicky and Chris Brown but I like the idea of a celebrity and a fan swapping bodies. It would be a disaster but a beautiful disaster. As much as I like this song, the vibe isn’t one I would miss if he didn’t include it on the album. “Switch” comes off as a loosie instead of an album placement.
9. “Thugger’s Interlude”
Please look up the video of 6LACK in a rap battle while a very tall Young Thug spectates. It will make your day better. This is DOPE. I listen to Young Thug when I’m going through it. YOUNG THUG! Is that him doing background vocals!? That was his "No Cap." Can we please have the Thug, 6LACK, and Future R&B group album? T6F will be trap music’s equivalent to TGT (Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank). 6LACK sounds great. I like this a lot. I need a full-length version. Whoever makes the five-minute loop version for YouTube please link me.
10. "Balenciaga Challenge" ft. Offset
The woman from “Disconnect” is back. I really like how this album is structured. It’s built to be played front to back. 6LACK isn’t a singles artist, he’s an album artist. “My time is money, nigga.” We getting bars from the gate and 6LACK is hotter than jet fuel burning. Everyday Struggle bar. DJ Ak is going to be a recurring name drop in hip-hop. Offset a.k.a. The Undertaker. He's the Migo you call when you want to place a song in a casket. Yep, he gave 6LACK a VERSE. This is a burial. These songs aren’t long but they strike fast and hard. Who did the beat? Kudos to the chef for these drums.
Take us to church, 6LACK. I like the vocal effect. There’s a knock to this that’s heavy and full of pressure. He wrote this song in a hotel the size of a closet, that’s humble without the brag. “Don’t compare me to no nigga I’m better than,” he’s in his confidence bag. “Those bullets will have you thinking about your unborn.” If 6LACK had DMX’s hardships and gruff vocals those bars would cut even deeper than they already do. He’s sharing heavy thoughts in the most subtle manner. This is a standout rap performance. “You can fit your talent in a B-cup” is a bar. “I’m an R&B nigga with a hip-hop core.” Another strong record. There are so many great moments I’m excited to return to.
Love the buildup. “Nonchalant” is a big mood record. A slow, crawling trip through 6LACK's thoughts. I love the play on Dwayne. 6LACK in 2018 has more quotables than Eminem. I know that could create a stir, but September has been so hellish what’s a little more fire? I stand by it. “Nonchalant” wasn’t the best choice if he wanted a single to make a splash, but it’s an excellent record. Keeper. An album full of keepers.
13. "Seasons" ft. Khalid
Whoa, whoa. Is this a warm 6LACK record? I haven’t felt such warmth since the very underrated “Pretty Weather.” This is the sound of winter ending. Khalid! What’s dope about 6LACK is his range of collaborators. He received stellar contributions from Cole, Future, Offset, and Khalid. “Seasons” is the opposite of “Nonchalant,” this is your single. This is your radio record. It’s not the winter record, but once the first chirp of April is heard, I would send this to every radio station. The world he’s building grows larger; he’s opening a new region of his art like how the later Pokémon games allow you to travel from Kanto to Johto. Yeah, “Seasons” is a Hank Aaron on steroids home run. Another woman’s voice. Communication is brought up again. There’s some depth to this album that should not be overlooked. Gotta sit with this one.
I hope this isn’t an Eminem remake. Slow buildup. Beautiful buildup. He’s going out with an explosion. Ah, I see the stan concept. “Only if you love me like a stan.” There is something brilliant and worrisome about wanting someone to love you like a stan. That’s just too unconditional. The guitar! Oh, THIS IS A RECORD. He’s added so many different textures to trap production. 6LACK not only knows his sound but has the vision to bend it. Such a great song. It’s so big and badass. I want Erykah Badu to add background vocals and Stevie Wonder to bring in his harmonica. Never mind, add nothing. Just take it all in.
Final (first listen) thoughts on East Atlanta Love Letter:
6LACK is keenly aware of his artistic strengths. It’s an awareness that shines throughout East Atlanta Love Letter. I see FREE 6LACK as putting the process into practice and finding what works. This new body of work expands upon that winning template without falling victim to tragic repetition. East Atlanta Love Letter is unapologetically a 6LACK album; he makes no attempts at being anyone else, but also went the extra mile to outdo himself.
Instead of being overly risky, he finds new ways to reimagine his comfort zones. Consider East Atlanta Love Letter a familiar house with a brand new interior. It’s the recording artist version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
The word "texture" was used often in my review. Sonically, the additional touches bring color to his natural black tone and help to further separate the two albums. Lyrically and vocally there are records that exemplify how 6LACK has grown as a writer and vocalist, but this may be overlooked due to the content of his sophomore being similar to his debut.
Love and all its obstacles are the major themes at the heart of 6LACK's music, but he’s able to make the exploration a distinctive experience. Procuring features—these features, in particular—was a wise decision. Everyone 6LACK enlisted to touch the project brought their own unique brand of personal magic. He creates a space for them to shine as a union, making one big sun rather than two twinkling stars.
East Atlanta Love Letter is a late-night blockbuster. It’s soothing yet visceral; hushed but somehow so loud. 6LACK's stories are honest, heartfelt, and relatable. He is the millennial whisper who speaks to the quiet storms in our head and hearts. It’s premature after only one listen, but I feel confident in saying this is an album to put on repeat.
By Yoh, aka Balenciyohaga Challange, aka @Yoh31
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