Album Review: 6LACK – East Atlanta Love Letter

By Nolan Simmons, Contributor
[Interscope; 2018]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Loaded Gun”, “East Atlanta Love Letter (ft. Future)”, “Stan”

Evidently, 6LACK doesn’t know what a sophomore slump is. Back in 2016, he released his debut album, FREE 6LACK, a bittersweet practice in self-examination that had everyone thinking about their ex. Now he is back with East Atlanta Love Letter — a raw and emotional return-to-form that’s fit to make a few tears fall.

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6LACK thrives in anguish, crafting soundtracks for those sleepless nights that leave you awake, wondering what could have been. Like FREE 6LACK, East Atlanta Love Letter is filled cover to cover with late-night heartbreak ballads, but this old dog has returned with new tricks. Rather than feeling rehashed, the Baltimore native’s sophomore album feels like a well-worn home with new wallpaper, adorned with vulnerability and loss. The slow-burning, melancholy title track includes piano chords that sound like butterflies trying to fly in the rain, as well as a Future verse that will leave you crying codeine tears. It is a welcome return to the established aesthetic of icy vocals over bitter, warbly production, which 6LACK has perfected. “Disconnect”, another familiar-feeling track on the album, opens with a harrowing guitar feature over sci-fi-esque synths that quickly dissipate into a minimalistic backdrop, which showcases his ice-cold delivery. Much of this album sounds like the logical next step forward from FREE 6LACK; it is a refinement of sound from a young artist that knows his own strengths.

That being said, this project shines brightest when it tries something new. “Switch”, one of the lead singles about a “Freaky Friday”-esque switching of places with a fan, is a far more upbeat track than what we have grown to expect from 6LACK. Bouncy drums keep the track moving forward, while uncredited background vocals from Ty Dolla $ign give it a soaring quality not often found on the album. “Seasons” contains a warmth rarely found on any 6LACK project, helped in part by rich, rolling production and a guest feature by Khalid, another pillar in the heartbreak community, whose serene voice gives a nice contrast to the winter that 6LACK delivers. On “Stan”, the closing track, 6LACK waxes poetic over a wavy Just Blaze-style chipmunk soul beat, flipping the word coined by Eminem into a term of endearment. Although he’s not necessarily breaking into a new sonic territory, he ventures out, taking small risks while still holding his cards to his chest.

6LACK’s ability to bare himself in his music is painted all over the album, something he makes apparent from the very start of the moody opening track, “Unfair”: “Hope my mistakes don’t make me less of a man / But lately it feel like them shits really can / I’m prayin’ I don’t wake up all alone / It’s hard to say it, so I write a song.” 6LACK woefully laments the conflict of managing his relationship while living with the complications of newly found fame — a theme that is woven frequently throughout the album. Following this, “Loaded Gun” shows 6LACK channeling his inner 2 Chainz, delivering cocksure lines like “No shit, I treat my dick like it’s a loaded gun / Point that shit away, these hoes gon’ blow or come,” only to then turn face and contrast them with lines about his newfound responsibility for his recently born daughter: “I got one baby, that’s one lady I’ma answer to / She be the reason I’m righting my wrongs and shit / Love is the reason I’m writing these songs and shit.” On “Thugger’s Interlude”, his tribute to other Atlanta superstar Young Thug, he delivers a sentiment that most of us on his broken-heart bandwagon can relate to: “Lately I been bumping trap music / Don’t wanna listen if I can’t dab to it / ‘Cause all that other shit makes me think about all the things I don’t wanna think about.”

With East Atlanta Love Letter, 6LACK has crafted the perfect album to accompany the passing streetlights during a lonely midnight drive. His sincerity flows from his heart into our souls, giving words to the uneasy feelings we can be too afraid to unpack. He has only improved since his freshman debut, which is no small task for a new artist following a breakout hit. Once again striking gold, 6LACK continues to prove that he touches a nerve with the swipe-right generation. From here on out, you can expect East Atlanta Love Letter to be playing in the background of lonesome nights for many lost souls.

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