As we approach the 10th anniversary of Kanye West’s tragic-rooted experiment– the dimly lit 808s & Heartbreak – we reach for an understanding of its innumerable influence. As a case study, 808s earthed the contemporary iciness of the R&B-Hip Hop fusion we see today. Without 808s, there is no Bryson Tiller, no Travis Scott, no Lil Uzi Vert, no OVO (it seems as if the entire roster is a personal Kanye side project). Certainly, there is an accompaniment with 808s that includes the likes of underground wraith Spaceghostpurrp, auto-tune frontman T-Pain and Virginia crooner D’Angelo that helped propel this movement. Nonetheless, it is impossible to ignore its importance.
Vulnerability and honesty were two of the most noticeable confessions that Kanye proposed in his 2008 work. Atlanta’s hometown hero, newcomer 6LACK, strove to be as vulnerable and as honest as possible while making his sophomore album, East Atlanta Love Letter, another output of the post-808s era. He viewed this album as a blessing, considering where he was just two years ago. In an Instagram post on September 13, 6LACK wrote “i just did what came natural… the only thing i think of everyday i wake up is making music that encourages people to feel and grow and communicate.” 6LACK is considered by many as one of the more genuine artists in the new R&B wave. For 6LACK, born Ricardo Valentine, East Atlanta Love Letter’s vulnerabilities and honesties aren’t quite fully-fledged, but they still contain fascinating accounts of his rise that feel somewhat superior to those found in his debut project FREE 6LACK.
6LACK has a knack for bitter flows and subzero vocals. His words in the past (see his fame-flaunting hit “PRBLMS”) had bite. His R&B mantra was full of cache and work, while his rap side showed witty wordplay. East Atlanta Love Letter shows both sides at their purest, a sign that he is certainly improving as a recording artist. Gem lyricism and technicality can be found on single “Nonchalant” where he raps lines like “We work, so my n****s ain’t gotta be on T-Shirts/ Watch me get my hands dirty with he rework” and “Learned how to kill a hook, Peter Pan.” “Scripture” contains powerful, awe-defying quotes like, “I wrote this in a hotel the size of a closet/ Just to show you that I could do it.” East Atlanta Love Letter is simply more refined and memorable.
Contrary to other popular artists, 6LACK opts to utilize minimal, yet sexy features. Fellow Atlantan Future, behind the smooth title track beat, shows off his trained singing voice and fancy aesthetic while sing-rapping about remixing love “like cut cocaine, it’s re-rock.” Rap sommeliers J. Cole and Offset complement 6LACK on two of the best tracks, the minimal “Pretty Little Fears” and the slapping “Balenciaga Challenge” respectively. R&B prince Khalid adds fluttering vocals on the Dave Bayley-produced penultimate track “Seasons.”
“Switch,” the Ty Dolla $ign-assisted June single, is the thesis of East Atlanta Love Letter. The track itself is the summation of 6LACK’s last two years: how he has fully crossed the spectrum of stardom. “Now switch/ Tell me how it feels/ To be somebody else/ Now switch/ It wasn’t what you thought it was/ Another story to tell” he sings on the chorus. Perspective is the driving force to 6LACK’s music: while other musical artists have gone through something similar, he insists that his experience is wholly unique, which only adds to his legend. On “Disconnect,” his third verse starts out with “Love is not struggling to tell you ‘I love ya’/ Or you saying music’s above ya/ I do this shit here ‘cause I need/ I need you.” 6LACK, here, struggles with balancing his relationship in the wake of his recent entry into fatherhood. 6LACK is always on the grind to right his wrongs, while admitting to his flaws, as seen on intro “Unfair” (“Hope my mistakes don’t make me less of a man/ But lately it feel like them shits really can”).