ALBUM REVIEW: 6lack Has Found His Formula with ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Somewhere between The Weeknd’s cocaine-fueled playboy era and Bryson Tiller’s spurned odes to heartbreak, 6lack is making his own version of atmospheric R&B trap.

Born Ricardo Valentine, 6lack’s sophomore album, East Atlanta Love Letter, is often more rapped than sung, and aesthetically his songs sound like love songs without actually touching upon the subject. Though his music hasn’t changed much since 2016’s Free 6lack, 2017 did bring the birth of his daughter, Syx, who is prominently talked about on the album (and literally strapped to her dad’s chest on the cover). Syx—named after 6lack’s Zone 6 home neighborhood in Atlanta—marks the starkest new perspective in 6lack’s music. His lyrics are often obsessed with his own ambitions, and his new responsibilities as a parent only add to his motivations.

In addition to creating effective soundscapes, 6lack proves himself to be a capable orchestrator of talent. Of the four big names featured — which also include Offset of Migos, Khalid and J. Cole — Future’s appearance on the title track is the highest high. Future, the original auto-tune savant and a fellow Zone 6 success story, is at his best when Atlanta’s customary trap drums are toned down, giving him plenty of room for his voice to serve as the main instrument.

6lack’s vocals are much simpler, yet strategically similar, and if East Atlanta Love Letter proves anything, it’s that the template works.

Score: 💌 💌 💌 💌 /5