Atlanta rapper 6lack: ‘Music can never smile at me the route my daughter does’
Once transgressed and hungry, the rising star has now been nominated for two Grammys. He discusses hitting rock bottom, narrowly avoiding death and becoming a father
6lack, pronounced “black”, is perhaps having a Wireless festival comedown. When we fulfill in July, the 26 -year-old is amicable but tired, introspective and stone-faced, the rapture of crooning his heart-bleeding combination of trap and soul to thousands in Finsbury Park having petered out.” I’m missing out on family time, I’m putting my body through extremes ,” he says.” When the things that you fantasise about become a reality, you realise this is still a chore .”
For the rapper-cum-singer otherwise known as Ricardo Valdez Valentine, that job is to construct confessionals: deep dives into embittered relationships and his quest to detect a better life through music. It’s the American Dream made a mid-2 0s reality, wrap in sombre production then sent into the world with low-toned vocals.
He was raised in Zone 6, the eastern district of Atlanta, a breeding ground for flamboyant rappers such as Gucci Mane. But Ricardo was a quiet child, frightened straight by witnessing a few things he says he shouldn’t have: friends sitting in prison or lying in cemeteries. Instead he dove into Sade, The-Dream, Erykah Badu and Michael Jackson. Then, in his late teens, with little fund and no place to stay, he moved to Miami with some friends to hunt down a record deal.
” We get signed with no management , no lawyers ,” he says.” There’s Ferraris outside, there’s Bugattis, the studio is beautiful- we were just like:’ Why not ?’ You learn afterwards .” The label demanded hitting records with pop formats but 6lack craved artistic freedom. So they sat in impasse.” It went from a situation that seemed like the global opportunity to,’ You might have just fucked yourself over ‘. My rock bottom was somewhere in South Florida. I hadn’t eaten for a while, I was super hungry. I remember being by a trash can and seeing someone fling food away. I thought about going over there, opening it up and feeing it. When I had that think, I was like:’ This better be worth it bro .'” It was- scene legends J Cole and Future appear on second album East Atlanta Love Letter, which has just been released, while he earned two Grammy nominations for his 2016 debut album Free 6lack and single Prblms.
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