By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez
Names can be a bit misdirecting.
Atlanta crooner 6lack (pronounced black) is a perfect example of how titles can be misleading. A random, Soundcloud-era stage name hides a talented singer whose emotion comes off in spacey singing over even spacier production. A master of the sad confidence that is embraced by the mainstream today, 6lack has certainly become a household name for fans of R&B, hip-hop heads, and people who need music to cry to at night.
6lack’s newest project, the short but crisp 6pc Hot EP, is much the same way. As funny a name it has, 6pc Hot actually does bring some heat. Much like a good hot wing, it packs a lot of heat in a small serving. Sometimes, the heat may just get you a little teary-eyed.
“ATL Freestyle” serves as a decent introduction to what 6lack does on the EP. The recording of the song is very raw, the timbre of the guitar and vocals surprisingly mellow over a steady trap rhythm. 6lack reflects on the many subjects that he covers on the project: his childhood memories, the current state of affairs in lockdown, and of course mentions of hot wings. While the song is probably too refined to be considered a freestyle and the sporadic use of cheesy punchlines and stream-of-thought writing gives it an off-the-cuff feel, it sets things up well enough. It’s in the moment, trapped by equal amounts of longing and peace.
The somber atmosphere continues with “Long Nights,” although this vibe is less nostalgic and more sexual. It sounds like the last meeting two lovers will have, knowing COVID will keep them separated. Ari Lennox’s backing vocals are beautiful, 6lack’s writing is magnetic in its cocky pleading, and the subtle saxophone is a perfect complement to the physical nature of romance. “Float,” the following cut, is much more rhythm heavy, relying on thick bass and reverberated snares, but here the cracks show a bit. Despite the production being very pretty, 6lack’s vocal range refuses to change from the previous two songs. While this isn’t inherently bad, he doesn’t make up for it with better writing. “Singing my pains while I’m listening to T-Pain” is probably the worst line here, less because I think it’s outright bad and more because I thought it was funny, something 6lack clearly didn’t want to convey.
Thankfully, the EP’s largest stumble doesn’t continue onto its more hip-hop centric cut, “Know My Rights.” The sub-bass here booms, the most prominent instrument amidst skittering hi-hats. 6lack’s hook here is incredibly catchy, with his charismatic performance being an alley-oop for Lil Baby’s slam dunk of a verse. He truly takes over the song on his verse, continuing his hot streak on features in 2020. The heavy sounds continue with “Elephant in the Room,” the most lavish song on the record. The use of swirling synths, talk-box vocal samples, and steady hi-hats is incredibly psychedelic, infusing 6lack’s difficult situation with underlying intoxication. 6lack’s singing here is steeped in frustration here, with his lyrics focusing on the struggle between success and finding love. It’s a powerhouse of a song sonically; if it were placed earlier on in the album, it could have solved the pacing issues caused by “Float.”
“Outside,” the closing song, is a punch to the tear ducts. 6lack’s use of sparse piano here is gorgeous, uncharacteristic for mainstream Trap&B, but it paints a beautifully hopeful picture. By painting himself as a child, he calls into the night, hoping for a day when he can “go outside and play again.” As someone going crazy in his own home can admit, this is a sentiment that hits far too close to home. It’s a fantastic close to the EP, a glimpse of sunshine in a situation surrounded by darkness.
6pc Hot EP packs a lot of heat in its short runtime. 6lack is in his bag for producing moody, introspective songs with a nostalgic twist, even if it comes at the cost of some odd sequencing choices and questionable bars. The sequencing of the album could’ve been spruced up by putting more energy on the front half and some struggle bars pop up here and there. As individual songs, however, most of the tracks work, leading me to believe that this is a 6 piece meal you should definitely dig into!
All we need now is for Young Nudy and 6lack to make a chicken wing themed collab album. I will be waiting patiently.
Tracks to Save: “Long Nights,” “Know My Rights,” “Elephant in the Room,” “Outside”
Tracks to Skip: “Float”
Stream 6pc Hot EP below! What did you think of the project? Love it? Hate it? Are you craving wings? Sound off below!