Review: 6LACK, ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’

6LACK continues to cruise in his lane of nocturnal confessions.

In late 2016, the mysterious 6LACK popped up on Apple Music with his debut album, Free 6LACK. There was a vague face to the music, undisputedly following the template of The Weeknd’s earlier career. Ambiguity drew fans in but the ambient blend of R&B and trap is what made them stay. While the style may not have been original, 6LACK (pronounced “Black”, he insists) was honing it better than contemporaries such as Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez and PartyNextDoor. Almost two years since the debut, 6LACK must avoid the sophomore slump to avoid the one-album-wonder category his aforementioned peers quickly found themselves in.

From the album art alone, 6LACK portrays the picture of an organic process; a man who’s only concerns are his daughter and the music. Now that the veil has been lifted on the artist, East Atlanta Love Letter puts 6LACK under the microscope. Love letters are what the album delivers, in the form of melodic R&B ballads driven by emotion and minimalist production.

Over 14 tracks, East Atlanta Love Letter establishes itself as a series of romantic regrets. “Unfair” dives straight into 6LACK’s perceptive take on a relationship, accompanied by reversing melodies that serve as a gloomy backdrop to his realisations. Taking accountability for his actions resumes on “Sorry”, a standout track that captures genuine sincerity and regret. For a genre that often gives the blame rather than takes, “Sorry” marks maturity while maintaining an ear for melody.

Other songs create visuals than simply written messages. Dark keys are responsible for the lust of “Loaded Gun”, painting the setting of a masquerade in which 6LACK is both blinded by and conscious of his vices. “Pretty Little Fears” is the album’s finest form of intimacy, a humble request for honesty in a relationship no matter how problematic it may seem. J. Cole’s verse adds a necessary touch to the song, his soft delivery and heartfelt lines nearly stealing the show from 6LACK’s own performance.

Sonically, East Atlanta Love Letter is in concordant territory with Free 6LACK. Piano ballads are utilised though not exhausted (“Thugger’s Interlude”), often used in conjunction with the signature spacey synths that gave Free 6LACK its appeal. When opting for stream of conscious songwriting, the minimal electronic thumps segregate 6LACK’s words to become the main attraction (“Nonchalant”). The closest diversion from the aesthetic is “Let Her Go”, amping the electronic pivot that prevents East Atlanta Love Letter from reaching monotony.

6LACK is not the strongest vocalist. In fact, his approach is virtually rap with a touch of singing. Similar to 21 Savage, the delivery barely fluctuates and often one-dimensional, but is saved by the melodies and dark production. In such a narrow pocket, tracks like “Scripture” are pleasant but is identical to the opening song to Free 6LACK. The album’s title track with Future deserved better execution as a duet, let down by the dry production, chorus and lack of subject matter. These tracks may lack in comparison to the refined bulk of the album but do not warrant a skip either.

The music of East Atlanta Love Letter is representative of its title; mature content emphasising communication in a relationship. There may be a lack of artistic development, but East Atlanta Love Letter proves it isn’t necessary if the formula can be recreated to the same standard.

Rating: 8 / 10

Best tracks: “Pretty Little Fears”, “Sorry”, “Unfair”, “Loaded Gun”, “Stan”, “Nonchalant”