The news of sombre rap star 6 Dogs’ passing was a hard one to swallow. The 21-year-old, who tragically died back in January, ushered in a new niche of exuberant emo, wearing his heart on his sleeve across two game-changing solo albums, 2016’s ‘6 Dogs’ and 2019’s ‘Hi-Hats & Heartaches’. Ronald Chase Amick – known as Chase to his friends and family – taught many of us that vulnerability is OK: an avid vegan, spiritualist and overall good spirit, the Benny Blanco-endorsed rhymer left a paw print on rap that can never be removed. And ‘RONALD.’, which he’d finished shortly before his passing, is an attentive send-off.
A sense of reverence in the moody ambience permeates the record, which aches with whistling synths and melancholic percussion. Executive production comes from his friend Daniel Hartzog, a talented beatmaker who brings a sense of soothing maturity to 6 Dogs’ adolescent sound. Where he was once a sidekick to our summer escapades, the rapper has become a figure we seek comfort from.
There’s still plenty of the excitable pup energy we loved 6 Dogs for; it’s just that it’s now a little muted and subdued. ‘Starfire (Teen Titans)’ is the perfect proof of this. On the surface, ‘RONALD.’’s lead single, released last month, boasts downbeat 808s adorned with skittish notes in the back, but listen closer to the bridge and you’ll hear Amick riffing on the lyrics to his brash 2017 breakthrough hit ‘Flossing’:“Designer cars, watch me floss, yeah / By the way, the vibe was off, yеah”.
‘Genie In A Bottle’, too, is three minutes of astral bliss. Amick gives Christina Aguilera a good run for her money: where her pop song of the same name was a celebration of romance, 6 Dogs focuses on emptiness and heartache. Set to rippling synths and lulling piano notes, this is a beautiful, relatable story about having money and trying to fill the void in your heart with flashy designer goods, as the rapper recalls “blowing through some racks because I didn’t used to like myself”. The song is a stark reminder to the rap community that fame and money do not solve your mental health problems.
When, on the cinematic 808-heavy ‘Spy Kids’, 6 Dogs tells us he’s “dreaming about some trophies / Waiting on a Grammy”, it’s also a heartbreaking reminder that we will never know where his potential and rap prowess might have taken him. In tapping into both the escapism of much modern rap and 6 Dogs’ emotional intelligence, ‘RONALD’ shows that Amick was solidifying his sound on album three. This is a great introduction to 6 Dogs for new fans, and a beautiful farewell to the influential star we once knew.
Release date: March 12
Record label: Independent