Album Review: 6LACK - East Atlanta Love Letter
written as part of Clash Magazine's Albums Of The Year Feature 2018
After first making waves in 2016 with his debut project ‘FREE 6LACK’ - a title referring to the contractual hell that he’d been through with his previous label - Atlanta R&B singer 6LACK returned with his highly anticipated sophomore album, ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’.
If ‘FREE 6LACK’ was an appetiser of what the Peach State native could do musically, then its follow-up was the main course that we’d been waiting for. ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’ draws the listener into a world that’s soundtracked by the city’s trap music, while exposing another side to life in Georgia’s capital; the pain, emotion and tumultuous relationships.
6LACK lives somewhere in a grey area, wearing his imperfections on his sleeve: juggling his passion for music with his personal life, writing slow jams while finding his own salvation in the city’s club music. “Lately I been listening to trap music / Don’t want to listen if I can’t dab to it,” he sings on ‘Thuggers Interlude’, before admitting: “But I’m a hypocrite, cos here I am with another slow song.” He’s more comfortable being candid on record than in real life, providing therapy for his listeners who can take comfort in his imperfections.
‘Unfair’ opens with the lines: “Hope my mistakes don’t make me less of a man / But lately it feel like these shits really can,” and it’s clear that a journey of heartache and pain is set to follow across the next 48 minutes. ‘Let Her Go’ sees 6LACK considering the impact a potential break-up will have on his life, while the down-tempo heart-wrencher ‘Sorry’ finds him regretful as he tries to work his way through a mistake, melodies gliding over a soothing piano loop: “Without you I ain’t shit, but no pressure / Guess I gotta learn my lesson.”
A self-proclaimed “R&B n***a with a hip-hop core,” 6LACK effortlessly transitions from heart-breaking crooning to braggadocios rapping. He saves the majority of this for the third quarter of the LP, with ‘Balenciaga Challenge’, ‘Scripture’ and ‘Nonchalant’. While the album often feels morose in tone, it does draw a hopeful conclusion. Khalid joins for ‘Seasons’, which announces the arrival of summer in contrast to the cold of the rest of the LP, and the unashamedly romantic closer ‘Stan’ sees 6LACK painting a picture of where he hopes his future will take him.
‘East Atlanta Love Letter’ is 6LACK’s statement of intent. It carries on where ‘Free 6LACK’ left off, adding more strings to his already stacked bow. With relatable lyrics about love and heartbreak, he connects so vividly to his fans, who realise that he isn’t so different to them. The impressive selection of guest features - Future, J. Cole, Offset and Khalid - add a little more gloss to what was an already stellar album, and this release cements 6LACK’s status as one of the world’s most exciting and relatable new stars.