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.
Credit: Mark Adriane
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.
Credit: Lil Coach K
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.”
IF YOU WATCH
66th Annual Grammy Awards
Sunday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. on CBS. The ceremony can be streamed live or on-demand via Paramount+.