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Dazed slow jams with forthright experiential lyrics are the primary mode of Atlanta-based contemporary R&B artist 6LACK (pronounced "black"). A model of perseverance, the singer/rapper and songwriter toiled for years before he struck a favorable deal with LVRN (Love Renaissance) and helped put the Interscope-affiliated label on the map. The Atlanta native achieved his breakthrough in 2016 with the single "PRBLMS" and subsequent album FREE 6LACK -- both of which were Grammy-nominated -- and has since become a fixture on Billboard's R&B/hip-hop and pop charts as both a lead and featured artist. East Atlanta Love Letter, his second album, nearly topped the Billboard 200 in 2018 and spawned four gold or platinum hits. Since I Have a Lover, released in 2023, balanced stylistic diversions with alternately swaggering and vulnerable ballads. Ricardo Valdez Valentine, Jr. was born and raised in Baltimore and eventually moved to Atlanta with his parents. Although he was introverted, he became known in middle school as a battle rapper and competed throughout his teens, continuing while enrolled at Valdosta State University. He faced future studio collaborator Young Thug in 2010. Having taken the name 6LACK due to his interest in numerology -- the alias also references his homebase in East Atlanta, known as Zone 6 -- he garnered some label interest and signed with Flo Rida's International Music Group/Strong Arm imprint in 2011. The deal resulted in little progress over several years -- a period perhaps highlighted by membership in the Spillage Village collective -- prompting 6LACK to seek free agency. It wasn't long before he landed on the Interscope-distributed label Love Renaissance and broke through in 2016 with "PRBLMS." A trap-styled slow jam inspired by a sour relationship, "PRBLMS" reached number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 and pushed the parent album FREE 6LACK to number 11 on the R&B/hip-hop chart. Both the single and the LP were nominated for Grammys -- respectively for Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album -- and went platinum. The gold-certified Jhené Aiko collaboration "First Fuck" highlighted a clutch of non-album singles 6LACK released during 2017 and early 2018. 6LACK additionally teamed with Khalid and Ty Dolla $ign to co-headline "OTW," which went platinum after it hit number 57 on the Hot 100. Anticipation for 6LACK's second album increased all the while, and East Atlanta Love Letter landed in September 2018, debuting at number three on the Billboard 200 with a track list that would boast a total of four gold or platinum singles: "Switch," "Nonchalant," "Pretty Little Fears" (with J. Cole), and "Seasons" (with Khalid). By the end of 2018, 6LACK had headlined a couple tours and expanded his audience by opening for the Weeknd and Chris Brown. "Pretty Little Fears" earned 6LACK a second Grammy nomination -- his third overall -- for Best Rap/Sung Performance. During the album's promotional campaign, 6LACK contributed to yet another platinum single, "Imported" by Jessie Reyez. Between albums, as his discography as a featured artist continued to grow, 6LACK appeased fans with the 6pc Hot EP, highlighted by the boastful Lil Baby collaboration "Know My Rights." Among a slew of subsequent 6LACK-assisted tracks, Lil Durk's "Stay Down" and Lil Tjay's "Calling My Phone" fared best. The Tjay track topped the R&B/hip-hop chart and reached number three on the Hot 100 -- 6LACK's highest pop showing to that point. 6LACK first previewed his third album in March 2023 with the atmospheric and strummy "Since I Have a Lover," a sonic departure taken with help from producers Fwdslxsh, Sounwave, and Dylan Wiggins (aka Sir Dylan). A handful of relatively characteristic ballads preceded the release of Since I Have a Lover at the end of that month. The LP entered the Billboard 200 at number 24.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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