Published Sep 17, 2018There is a coldness to 6lack's love letters that skips beyond the glacial ice chunks he's chucking stones at in the video for single "Nonchalant." Throughout the East Atlanta trap singer's icy second go-round, hearts get broken, lies eat away at bonds and regrets rule the night.
Even the lovemaking — an R&B album requisite — feels more soul-patching that soul-fulfilling. "Fuck me like you're 'bout to lose your place to the girl next door," 6lack instructs on the wonderfully hollow "Loaded Gun" (dick metaphor alert!). Then he walks out the door and goes on tour. But these episodes resonate like a laments, not boasts.
Escaping from a screwed-up label deal, 6lack exploded on the scene with 2016's brilliant Free 6lack, scoring big with singles "Ex Calling" and "Prblms." But a gold plaque, a Grammy nom and a healthy bank account haven't quieted his restless mind or mended his tortured soul.
The song titles alone on 6lack's sophomore set — "Disconnect," "Sorry," "Let Her Go," "Unfair" — tell you where he's going with this.
East Atlanta Love Letter is night-time on an island, and 6lack is wrestling with how things went wrong. "Mistakes feel like a fracture in my bone," he croons on "Sorry."
Sonically and thematically, the 48-minute downtempo project is impeccably cohesive, executive producers Singawd and Yakob tying a black bow on a deep list of contributing producers with brooding, layered synths and space to think.
Auto-Tune appears heavily, and the guest list is firmly in the now. Fellow ATLiens Future, Offset and Young Thug all pitch in, and J. Cole caps off the fragile "Pretty Little Fears" with a smooth and smart personal verse. It's a record that captures the trap-soul zeitgeist that will best catch you in your feelings.
So E.A.L.L.'s delayed optimism is much welcome. Singer Khalid, another Georgian on the rise, links up for "Seasons," the LP's second-to-last track, hinting that maybe 6lack's life isn't 12 months of winter.
And the finale, "Stan," is finally a love letter free of remorse and distrust. 6lack says he can see newlyweds slow-dancing to it on their wedding night, and we can too. (LoveRenaissance / Interscope Records)