“Keep looking if you're looking for average / I'm living proof, a human covered in magic” –6LACK,“ Mourning Star”
6LACK, real name Ricardo Valentine, was born on June 24, 1992, a Baltimore baby. A move to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1997 brought the future rap and R&B star down South. Atlanta is where we met. At the Ponce de Leon Urban Outfitters. I wrote about this encounter back in 2016, when 6LACK was still a star in the making and truth be told, no one knew if he would make it big.
Before award show nominations and headlining tours, 6LACK was a local face, a man of great promise known for words with no guarantee the world would receive those words. The years following our initial meeting have been good to him. With over 585 million collective views on YouTube, two certified Gold albums, and several certified Gold and multi-Platinum singles, the LVRN flagship artist is only rising higher with every release.
When I asked 6LACK over the phone, “How do you keep the hunger of a starving artist when success keeps a man full?” he responded eloquently:
“I’m still very, very hungry,” 6LACK said. “We’ve figured out more, we’ve accomplished more, but this shit has only changed more. I’m only facing more shit and I only want to do more; I only want to learn more. We haven’t finished anything. This shit is just starting; this is still chapter one for me.”
Although he’s still in Chapter One of his career, 6LACK’s progress has placed him alongside some of the most notable rappers, songwriters, and vocalists in the music business.
To commemorate his 28th birthday, 6LACK sat down with DJBooth to share the story behind his six favorite guest features.
On Kehlani’s “RPG”:
“Me and Kehlani were talking about working for a while. Just based on us being really good friends. Once she sent me the track, it was one of the ones you just get excited for what you’re about to do because you feel it and hear it already.
“Some songs you got to work to get that feeling out, but some songs you hear them and you’re like, oh shit, this verse is about to be crazy. I write the verse, and it’s one of my favorite verses I’ve ever written ’cause I think I did a really good job of just articulating very specifically what I feel in regards to my relationship and what I feel in regards to my personal life. Every single word, every single cadence, every single bar was just like, very, very, on point. The precision of it was really good.
“I was in the studio, out here in my LA house in that little reflective mood of trying to figure out… I feel like I’ve always done a good job expressing myself musically, but I haven’t done equally that in my personal life, so I was in the space of knowing that I was about to do it the music way, I know I spoke it enough where, when it was heard, it was received how it was supposed to be.”
On Guapdad 4000’s “Prada Process”:
“‘Prada Process’ was an opportunity I got to rap. We talk about it a lot. How I mainly do R&B or whatever you want to call it so that rap card has yet to take its own form. You hear it in the midst of R&B songs, but we haven’t found an identity for it yet. So it was fun being able to do the rap thing with Guapdad, who set me up for the alley-oop because his verse is amazing too. Another of my favorite verses. Just the wordplay, I like it.
“The sense of urgency is a little bit different when it’s a rap verse. I feel like I get an opportunity to show a different arsenal, to show a different side. It’s as simple as it being more words. I get to give more syllables towards what I feel, which is something I used to do a lot when I was just a rapper, but I kind of compressed that when I became a vocalist. I get to go back into that every time I get a rap track.”
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On QUIN’s “Mushroom Chocolate”:
“‘Mushroom Chocolate’ is my relationship. Bianca, that’s my girl, that’s been my best friend since 2014, 2013. I can’t remember, it’s been so long.
“‘Mushroom Chocolate’ is a song where I was actually reflective of my relationship. I don’t put stuff like that out there that much, because, you know, the internet is a weird place.
“To do the song was fun because it allowed me to put into words and show people something more personal than what they may know. I talked them through turmoil; I talked them through other parts of my relationship, but not as much on the good side of it. And the whos, the whats, and shit like that. I had fun making it.
“B is a great artist; great producer. She sits there, and she gets every single sound on her beats right; every single vocal, every single melody that she does hit right. She’s a perfectionist. She inspired me to get my shit together when I met her because, before, I was mainly rapping.
“When I saw her confidence and delivery in her music, I was like, how do I achieve that with my music? Up until then, I felt like I was just doing stuff, trying to figure out, you know, what I want to sound like. It wasn’t just how something made me feel when I listen to her music, so I’m like, shit, I just need that feeling. Fuck all the other shit that I’m thinking about.”
On Jessie Reyez’s “Imported”:
“‘Imported’ was fun. I did it in New York. Jessie had sent it to me, and I got on the verse immediately. I was in New York for something else, but I ended up going to the studio. ‘Imported’ was another one of those moments where the first line came out, and I was like, ‘Oh, shit.’ This is about to be a banger; this is about to be a hit. When you feel it, you just feel it. This song is going to do something.
“So that opening line: ‘Hi my name is 6LACK,’ the pronunciation took a life on its own. I just love that song. Jessie is an amazing artist, too. She gives me so many different kinds of vibes, so I just had to match her alien on that song and do my own thing.”
On Snoh Aalegra’s “I Want You Around (6LACK Remix)”:
“‘I Want You Around’ was an amazing song before it got to me. I was listening to Snoh’s project every single day. I only did that with a couple of projects in the past couple of years. Roddy Ricch’s Feed The Streets II, Snoh Aalegra’s -Ugh, those feels again, and Ari Lennox’s Shea Butter Baby are some of the albums I had on repeat every time I got in the car.
“So, ‘I Want You Around,’ I’m just honored to be able to get on the song. I just let her know I was a fan, and she ended up giving me the opportunity to do a remix, and I was like, ‘Shit, I already know all the words. I’m good to go.’
“I recorded ‘I Want You Around (6LACK Remix)’ here in the studio at the house. I remember being super careful with my words because I didn’t want to mess up a really, really great song.”
On JID’s “Mourning Star”:
“‘Mourning Star’ happened during a time period when me and JID were starving artists. The way that we poised in that song, the way we carried ourselves in that song just wouldn’t make you feel that way. It sounded like we had the shit figured out. We were professionals going through what we were going through.
“‘Mourning Star’ just reminds me of breakfast at the Spillage Village house. It reminds me of waking up on their couch. It reminds me of making hella music every single day with people I didn’t know prior to meeting them that year. It was a new relationship, and I was just living with them. That song gives me wake up in the morning vibes. It always reminds me of that time.”