6LACK “East Atlanta Love Letter” — Review

On his sophomore album, 6LACK buffs his style brilliantly.

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6LACK “East Atlanta Love Letter” — Review

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

(Trevor Wilson/Amherst Wire)

Trevor Wilson, Writer

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Nearly two years since the release of his debut album “Free 6LACK,” Atlanta native 6LACK steps back into the trap/R&B spotlight with his sophomore record “East Atlanta Love Letter.” 6LACK began to turn heads in 2016 with his singles “Prblms” and “Ex Calling.” Both songs are now certified platinum, with “Prblms” peaking at 34 on the US R&B/hip-hop charts. Since then, 6LACK released a series of singles in his downtime between projects. He has now released his sophomore album, which stands to perpetuate the momentum 6LACK has had going for the last two years.

In short, fans will be delighted with “East Atlanta Love Letter.” It has everything you could want from a 6LACK project — from bouncy, airy trap tracks to soft, yet bombastic R&B anthems. Sonically, 6LACK does not explore new territory, but rather builds on his brand and works to make it polished. The project has four features including Future, J. Cole, Offset and Khalid who work to complement 6LACK with a variety of approaches. “East Atlanta Love Letter” allows 6LACK to find his groove, but where it carries itself sonically, it lacks in substance.

Finding the sweet spot

When 6LACK first arrived on the scene, what set him apart from others in his field was his methodical blend of R&B and trap. 6LACK’s beat selection on “East Atlanta Love Letter” is masterful, and 6LACK wastes no time creating a record that is cohesive and blends with the rest of the project. Spacey, light pads and soft key melodies combine with classic Atlanta trap drums to make 6LACK’s style familiar, but unique in its own right. Tracks like “Let Her Go,” “Sorry,” “Balenciaga Challenge” and “Stan” stand out the most in terms of production.

On top of that, 6LACK’s vocals continue to impress. His raspy, yet smooth voice bounces so well on these tracks. Songs like “Let Her Go” and “Switch” best exemplify his ability to use his voice on faster, trap-oriented instrumentals. Other tracks like “Sorry,” “Stan” and “Nonchalant” best demonstrate his knack for singing. 6LACK proves that his nonchalant, slow singing works beautifully on these tracks without taking away from the album’s pace. 6LACK never sounds awkward or out of place on any of these tracks. 

Lastly, 6LACK’s picks for features work well in his favor. On the song “East Atlanta Love Letter (feat. Future),” 6LACK hits the right chord with his own brand and Future’s brand of R&B. The two play off of each other exceptionally without either stealing the show. On “Seasons (feat. Khalid),” 6LACK does well to find an instrumental that suits his sound as well as Khalid’s uptempo, pop-influenced style. The two create a strong, memorable moment in the album. The other two features — J. Cole on “Pretty Little Liars” and Offset on “Balenciaga Challenge”— are perhaps the weakest of the four. While 6LACK attempts to curate instrumentals catered to their style, Offset fails to fit in well, while J. Cole says a whole lotta nothing. These features are bland, but still do not take away from the sonic perfection of the project.

Sound substitutes substance

Perhaps the album’s most glaring shortcoming is 6LACK’s inability to explore new territory with his lyrics. His debut album featured discussions about life and love after fame, lost love interests, pushing through heartbreak and more. Listeners will find much more of the same on “East Atlanta Love Letter,” where 6LACK writes about the same themes from “Free6LACK.” His perspective has changed as he’s gained more of a following, but lyrically there is no progression or risks taken on “East Atlanta Love Letter.” Tracks like “Disconnect,” “Thugger’s Interlude” and “Scripture” feel the most like fillers, songs that fit well into the project, but bring nothing new to the table.

In all honesty, “East Atlanta Love Letter” is a safe album from 6LACK. Instead of taking risks and trying new things, he sticks to his guns and creates an album that sounds like a perfected “Free 6LACK 2.” Despite this, 6LACK still manages to create some memorable tracks. “East Atlanta Love Letter,” “Sorry,” “Switch” and “Stan” stand out as the best overall tracks on this record. These songs best exemplify 6LACK’s ability to create captivating R&B and trap songs that leave you feeling the pain of a lost love or the excitement of a new endeavor. 6LACK recycles the same themes in “East Atlanta Love Letter,” but it doesn’t take away too much in terms of quality.

Verdict: 7/10

In many ways, 6LACK is creating better music than many of his crossover counterparts. Names like Bryson Tiller come to mind when thinking of the crossover genre. However, 6LACK is the clear standout from the genre, and in many ways, he sounds more polished than Tiller could sound. 6LACK has a clear brand that he has executed much better than many artists in his field, where artists like Tiller struggle to find that perfect blend. 6LACK’s ear for production shines on “East Atlanta Love Letter,” and he creates a memorable project with many highlights despite the lack of ingenuity.

As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. On his sophomore album, 6LACK buffs his style brilliantly.

Email Trevor at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TrevorWilsonOG.

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