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Album Review: 6LACK ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’

R&B storytelling set to a heavy beat.

Following the critical and commercial success of 6LACK’s debut album Free 6LACK, Ricardo Valentine, who performs under the sobriquet of 6LACK – pronounced “black” – returned with East Atlanta Love Letter, his sophomore album. Over 14 tracks, the Zone 6 Atlanta native expresses his feelings about balancing relationships, love, and tribulations from a vividly honest and mature perspective, while somehow remaining relatable.

6LACK’s versatile, dark but alluring sound has become a staple in the R&B category, allowing his music to pierce through opposites like Tory Lanez, Kehlani, and Tinashe.

While the late ’90s & early ’00s brought an R&B sound typified by songs like Jagged Edge’s “Wednesday Lover” or Ashanti’s “Happy,” the sonics of R&B have become disassociated from it’s classic peak. Artists like Justine Skye, Jhene Aiko, Sabrina Claudio, and Tinashe began to fill the idea of rhythm and blues, but without the blues. 6LACK’s music is different: it encompasses R&B storytelling – in terms of love and emotion – while subconsciously bobbing your head to a heavy beat.

The consistency of Free 6LACK trickles into 6LACK’s mission of creating music with a message. His penmanship drips with authenticity, which can be felt through his explanation of different experiences on tracks like “Seasons” and “East Atlanta Love Letter.” His grungy R&B sound resonates over his 808-laced beats included with his sprinkle of auto-tune melodies.

His idea of being an “R&B N*gga With a Hip-Hop Core” rings true, as he floats on a mysterious but engaging sound.

6LACK, as an artist, creates sustainable storytelling, which satisfies his core fanbase of (potential) hopeless romantics, while also displaying his artistry.

In addition to 6LACK giving his own views of success, communication, loyalty, and love — he welcomes similar expressions from a Black woman’s perspective via various cameos from Tierra Whack, LightSkin Keisha, and Mereba.

He spoke about why a feminine touch was so necessary during a Rap Radar interview, mainly because he had no female features on the album and because his daughter Syx Rose Valentine had come into his life.

East Atlanta Love Letter not only provides a comprehensive outlook on life through the eyes of a 26-year-old, but it also harbors a few radio-worthy and club jumping singles. “Seasons” featuring Khalid provides a vibrant and electrifying take on the current state of R&B music; while “Balenciaga Challenge” featuring Migos trio rapper Offset, is a prime example of the sound rising out of Atlanta’s R&B and Hip-Hop scene in 2018.

Released in September 2018, the album landed at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B album chart, in addition to earning his his first Top 10 entry hitting the No. 3 spot on the Billboard 200.

East Atlanta Love Letter is a pensive and meditative project, telling stories of vulnerability, escalation, and the redefining of love through its boastful songwriting and heavy features from Hip-Hop’s most buzz-worthy artists.

6LACK not only provides a space for rappers to showcase their flexibility in a downbeat style, but he also satisfies a niche within the streaming-era, providing R&B stories, combined with a Hip-Hop aura.

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