Before his Grammy nomination, 6lack focused on finding inner peace

The Atlanta artist is up for his fourth Grammy nomination at this year’s awards ceremony.
Singer and rapper 6lack is among the Atlanta artists nominated at this year's Grammy awards. His album "Since I Have a Lover" is nominated for best progressive R&B album. The ceremony airs on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. Photo credit:  Mark Adriane

Credit: Mark Adriane

Credit: Mark Adriane

Singer and rapper 6lack is among the Atlanta artists nominated at this year's Grammy awards. His album "Since I Have a Lover" is nominated for best progressive R&B album. The ceremony airs on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. Photo credit: Mark Adriane

When 6lack received the news about being nominated for another Grammy award this year, he was half awake. He embarked on the North American leg of his tour just the month before. Grammy nominations were the furthest from his mind on that day.

“I blinked and I think I might have just been sleeping in from the previous show and woke up in the morning and saw all the notifications on my phone,” said 6lack, born Ricardo Valdez Valentine Jr. “At first, I was a little bit offended, like why is everybody hitting me up. I don’t like to start my day like that. Then, I started to read the texts and see what was going on, and it was really dope to wake up and start my day that way.”

At this year’s Grammy awards, which airs on Sunday, his latest LP “Since I Have a Lover” is up for best progressive R&B album. It’s his fourth nomination in five years — receiving recognition for each album since his debut in 2016.

As for his stylized professional name, he had this to say in his 2019 collaboration with Jessie Reyez, “Imported”: “Hi, my name is 6lack / And sometimes people call me six-lack.” For the record, the name comes from being raised in Zone 6 in East Atlanta, but it’s pronounced “Black.”

Before the release of his most recent offering, the Atlanta native needed a break. His critically acclaimed 2018 album “East Atlanta Love Letter” centered his knack for creating trap-infused R&B that mourned broken relationships and failed romances. But he knew he wanted to work on himself. 6lack didn’t want to keep writing about the same struggles.

“It’s a lot easier to not feel good about something and to run to the studio. Although that creates a really dope kind of art, sometimes I do think that it becomes like a coping method,” he said. “At some point, you have to look up and just look at your life and think if the issues are still continuing, then there’s something here that needs to be changed.”

That keen level of self-awareness sparked a five-year mental health journey. He started therapy and focused on being patient with himself and others.

The result? Reflecting on his growing pains on “Since I Have a Lover.” The album is a hefty 19 tracks — his longest album to date. That was intentional. He wanted to fully inform his fans about why he took an extended break. More importantly, he was adamant about conveying that healing isn’t linear. It’s a process.

Rapper and singer 6lack grew up in East Atlanta, where he was inspired by fellow collaborators like JID and Earthgang. 6lack is signed to the Atlanta-based record label LVRN. He credits the city for his Grammy-nominated success. Photo credit: Mark Adriane

Credit: Mark Adriane

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Credit: Mark Adriane

6lack affirms that he wasn’t running away from the music. He just wanted to figure out who he was outside of it.

“For me, it was just remembering that I’m not just a musician and taking time to tend to my personal life and have hard conversations,” he said, “and sometimes just sit by myself and think and do nothing and rest.”

The 31-year-old admits one of his biggest challenges was learning how to effectively communicate: “I had to learn bein’ stubborn was a vice/I had to pick apart the trauma in my life,” he raps on “Inwood Hill Park,” the second track on the album.

For 6lack, communicating conflict and being confrontational about his emotions with others is a scary feeling. But he said knowing his fears is helpful when he finds himself reverting to old habits.

“I’m used to being reserved ..., to resolving most of my issues on my own and to myself. To have to do it in front of people, in front of the world with a partner, with family, with friends — I think that’s where it gets a little bit tricky.”

Throughout “Since I Have a Lover,” 6lack prioritizes the practice of learning to love himself deeply. He wants to be better for himself so he can be a better partner to his girlfriend, Quiñ (the “lover” referenced in the album title), and his five-year-old daughter. He hopes the album inspires others to focus on their respective healing journeys.

Although the rapper and singer doesn’t quite have everything figured out yet, he’s actively doing the work to have a healthier lifestyle.

East Atlanta native 6lacks recent album "Since I Have a Lover" is nominated for best progressive R&B album at this year's Grammy Awards. The LP centers the artist's mental health journey. Photo credit: Lil Coach K

Credit: Lil Coach K

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Credit: Lil Coach K

“I had to talk to somebody on the outside just to tell them how I really feel inside,” he said. “(I’m) trying to encourage people to get it out of your system. Maybe it’s not literally talking. Maybe you need to work out, maybe you need to run, maybe you need to read, maybe you need to journal, maybe you need to go outside and touch grass, you know, or maybe you need to talk.”

6lack is still working on his outfit for Sunday’s Grammys, but he’s thinking about wearing white or beige or ivory. As for his other plans this year, he’ll embark on the European and Australian leg of his “Since I Have a Lover” tour later this month, and he plans to drop new music. Although he splits his time between Atlanta and Los Angeles, he’s still the same East Atlanta crooner who’ll never stop being inspired by his hometown’s creativity.

After all, it’s where began his Grammy-nominated career.

“It’s given me range. I would say that’s the main thing that Atlanta has done for me — exposing me to an ocean of favorite artists and people from different sides of towns and culture and lingo and fashion and it’s so many things that you can pick up when you grow up here.”


66th Annual Grammy Awards

Sunday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. on CBS. The ceremony can be streamed live or on-demand via Paramount+.