He might not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of modern R&B, but for the past four years 6lack’s been quietly fine-tuning the syrupy sounds made popular by the likes of The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller, and PARTYNEXTDOOR. Since the release of 2016’s ‘Free 6lack’, he’s remained consistent, delivering high-quality mood music that both challenges and respects the moral code of traditional R&B.
His latest project feels like a rebirth. Released in the same week as his 28th birthday, ‘6pc Hot’ plays like a vision board soundtracked by moody synths and trunk-rattling 808s. The six-track EP sees the proud Atlanta native strip away unnecessary layers so that he can evolve, sometimes having to make hard decisions, such as banishing toxic friends or bluntly declaring that no-one will stand in the way of him achieving his dreams.
Given that 6lack’s music is always a vibe, it’s no surprise that musically ‘6Pc Hot’ is top-drawer. Opener ‘ATL Freestyle’ is an acoustic beauty on which delicately strummed strings melt effortlessly into a bottomless beat. The busy ‘Know My Rights’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Migos album, while quarantine love song ‘Outside’ (“I’ll give you the time of your life/ Just wait till we can go outside”) is infused with a weeping key arrangement.
‘Elephant In The Room’ is a sage warning to people who love ambitious types. “I’ll be damned if I let you make me slip and fall,” 6lack sings over the puckish, vocoder-driven backdrop. ‘Float’ is an unguarded therapy session that shines a light on internal conflict, bringing pain and anguish to the surface over rugged bass and sharp synth stabs reminiscent of his 2016 single ‘Free’.
The EP’s standout, however, comes in the form of ‘Long Nights’. 6lack’s shamelessly honest about wanting a no-strings relationship, but lyrics such as “Hopin’ for a good time” somehow sound less than salacious – and more like endearing candour – as they swim in and out of the song’s airy soundscape, further enhanced by Dreamville singer Ari Lennox’s seductive backing vocals and the splashes of sax.
Beautifully produced and filled with honest, unrefined conversations about love, life and sacrifices, ‘6pc Hot’ sees 6lack shoot straight from the heart. Even though it’s just a taster, it puts the Atlanta crooner in prime position to take over as the leader of R&B’s new school.
Release date: June 26
Record label: Interscope Records