Album Review: East Atlanta Love Letter – 6LACK

As a continuation from his major label debut FREE 6LACK, 6LACK is back with his sophomore effort East Atlanta Love Letter that addresses his supporters, critics, past relationships, and most importantly, his daughter Syx. The album takes on a vibe-driven journey through 6LACK’s mind that forces listeners to latch onto his raw emotion and vulnerability. If you’ve been following 6LACK since his arrival onto the R&B scene, you are familiar with his unconventional approach to introspective songwriting and production. Currently based in Atlanta, the artist signed with LVRN/Interscope in 2016 and released his Grammy-nominated project FREE 6LACK that garnered critical acclaim by critics and fans alike. Compared to his peers in Atlanta, he differentiated himself from the fray by incorporating a fusion between hip-hop and R&B.

In an era of SoundCloud artists and producers, 6LACK took advantage of the platform to push his debut project to a wider audience and gained traction across all platforms. His breakthrough single “PRBLMS” exemplifies 6LACK’s signature sound of alternative R&B sprinkled with subdued sub-bass, a high-pitched sample, ominous synths, and a trap drum kit. Coupled with fan interaction on social media, his hands-on approach in marketing, merch, and album rollouts resulted in a niche fanbase that has expanded over time. According to his recent interview on Everyday Struggle, 6LACK describes how young artists become complacent after their debut project. He insists artists remain level-headed by using the same blueprint that resulted in initial success and pushing out their music by word of mouth. 6LACK’s approach to the music industry should be an example for upcoming artists to utilize in their paths to a fruitful career.

Recently, 6LACK showed his artistic prowess in a dimly-lit music video for “East Atlanta Love Letter.” Serving as the title track of the album, the piano-sample production offers a reflective peek into 6LACK’s love for a woman. Listeners may also pick up on the song’s metaphor to pay homage to his hometown of Atlanta. The music video breathes new life into the lyrics featuring a woman in a wedding dress, a couple, 6LACK, Future, and different areas in Atlanta. Each scene represents part of 6LACK’s story of finding love and heartache in the midst of increased prominence in the music scene. Sonically, Future fits perfectly under 6LACK’s hopeful vocals and provides a tonal change in the second half with a refreshing twist. Reminiscent to his Honest album, Future revisits his autotune-infused singing style as he repeats 6LACK’s lyrics. 6LACK’s keen ear for stitching together the proper melodies to laid-back production is the album’s strong suit.

Comparative to the soundscape of “Swim Good” by Frank Ocean, “Switch” is another exemplary effort that showcases his vocal ability and precise penmanship to paint a picture with his songwriting. The music video shows flashbacks of 6LACK’s career and personal life which provides the listener with a visualization of his struggle with adapting to his newfound stardom. Although the song contains catchy elements such as the chorus and bouncy production, the deeper meaning within tells a story of juggling between fame and normalcy. As for the song itself, Joel Little’s production provides the perfect landing spot for 6LACK’s confident delivery in cohesive fashion. His melodic voice interweaves the beat through different flows and pauses allow Ty Dolla $ign‘s background vocals to add depth to the trance-like ambiance. Since the producer introduced an immediate beat drop, the listener’s attention focuses on the amalgamation of sounds such as 808 drums and fluttering synths to complement 6LACK’s somber tones. Compared to his previous project, the polished sound might attract a wider audience to take a look at his growing catalog of hits.

As for the rest of the project, “Let Her Go” is a personal standout that showcases 6LACK’s growth as an artist by crooning on upbeat production with tinges of mellow and airy synths. Influenced by his Atlanta counterparts Migos and Future, the minimalistic beat allows experimentation to add vocal runs prominent in the mumble scene. In the same vein, “Balenciaga Challenge” is a highlight for 6LACK’s versatility between R&B and hip-hop through his abrasive delivery and complex bars. Migos member Offset lends his talent to add another dimension to the wavy ambiance with his triplet flow that rides the beat effortlessly. However, 6LACK’s close relationship with J.I.D landed him a buzzworthy feature with “Pretty Little Fears.” Since J.Cole is no stranger in adapting to melodic instrumentation, his vocal capabilities allow him to emphasize his transition from manhood to fatherhood. The stripped-down, ambient production shifts the listener’s focus to each artist’s storytelling respectively. “Sorry” has an orchestral presence with harp and violin laced throughout the track. Lyrically, 6LACK delves into an introspective look into his past relationships that went awry. The initial commentary may be in direct correlation with the consequences of choosing his dreams over love. “Scripture” and  “Nonchalant” further cements his creative ability to infuse hip-hop and R&B with slowed-down and jagged production. The album ends with a DJDS-produced ballad that features a warping sample, electric guitar, and an acoustic drum kit. Compared to the previous tracks, “Stan” provides a glimpse of 6LACK’s vocal strength on acoustic instrumentation.

Although 6LACK may be compared to his peers in the R&B sphere, his musicality and integrity to be confident in his own skills may result in a promising outlook to his career. His raw talent and relatability add another notch to his repertoire that will assist in sustaining success. As each successive track flowed seamlessly to the next, East Atlanta Love Letter proves to be a testament to hard work and dedication to an artist’s craft. Based on his creative songwriting ability alone, 6LACK may very well be a mainstay in the music industry for years to come. Be sure to check out 6LACK on tour soon and listen to his latest album below:

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