6LACK
Free 6LACK


3.5
great

Review

by davidwave4 USER (54 Reviews)
January 31st, 2017 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Another one.

We’ve seen this story before. It’s a nice, aspirational story, so industry copy loves it. The story follows a newly discovered wunderkind rejecting the path the industry hoisted upon them in order to find their own unique sound. Whether it was Zayn, Frank Ocean, Sky Ferriera, or The Weeknd, the story almost always ends the same way: the experimentation or divergence pays dividends as the artist produces some work that’s different insofar as it’s “edgier” or “less commercial” than other genre works. Our good friend 6lack (pronounced “black”) has followed that same trajectory. Initially signed (somewhere) in 2011 at age 19, 6lack has been lurking in the background for the better part of a decade, ostensibly honing his skills and refining his sound. But what makes Free 6lack so confounding to listen to is that, for all this talk of rejecting industry convention and rebelling, the album sounds exactly like what a mainstream R&B/hip-hop record should sound like in 2017. For better and for worst.

What’s immediately noteworthy about this album is that, sonically, it’s not exactly groundbreaking. The album mines the same fertile post-Weeknd ground that dvsn, Bryson Tiller, and Roy Woods have been plundering. The production here is a bit more ambitious (“MTFU” boasts some fancy Soulection keys in its latter half, “Worst Luck” is more Mark Pritchard than DJ Eskimo) than most releases, and seems to find its roots more in albums like Fennesz’s Venice than it does in EVOL or What A Time To Be Alive. This experimental edge isn’t all that uncommon in contemporary music (there are artists on Soundcloud like Blank Body and FIFTYGRAND who’ve been doing weirder things with the same palettes), but seeing it in a relatively high-profile release serves as an interesting test of its sales potential. Not all the tracks are all that amorphous or avant-garde. In fact, many of the track are immediately impactful trap bangers with radio-friendly hooks. “Rules” especially stands as the obvious eventual single, while “Prblms” has already demonstrated its single potential.

What’s particularly noteworthy about the intersection of the vocals and the production is how easily it defies genre trappings. Modern rap music and R&B are virtually indistinguishable these days (R&Bers Anderson.Paak and August Alsina were both included in XXL’s showcase of freshman rappers, and rappers like Drake, Future, and Young Thug are singing all the time), but 6lack does better than almost all the aforementioned in straddling the line between rapper and singer. The murky, pitch-black production is equally suited to low-key trap-rappers and trap-soulers, and the fact that the BPM never really rises for a definitive “rap” moment means that there is no real straight-forward “rap” song here. But the verses are regularly sang or rapped in a way that recalls others who’d ostensibly be considered “rappers.” It’s a nice bit of subversion, even if it is a bit overplayed.

And the vocals on this album don’t exactly help dispel that sentiment. 6lack is a fairly dexterous rapper, and he often comes through with at least aesthetically-exquisite rhymes. However, his voice is innocuous enough that, when he eventually lapses into an AutoTuned drawl (as almost all modern rappers are wont to do), he’s easily mistaken for the hordes of other sizzurp-sipping trap-soulers that have broken into the popular consciousness recently. That’s not an especially bad thing for a new artist, but as I noted in both my dvsn and Roy Woods reviews, being ambiguous and easily mistaken for other artists is a surefire way to get relegated to one hit wonder status.

But where 6lack sinks in vocal variety, he soars in storytelling and self-mythologizing. Tracks like “Never Know” and “EA6” demonstrate 6lack’s above-average ability to build a narrative around himself that suits the tone and tenor of the production. Even on the more traditional brag-rap tracks, he’s able to inject some very personal lines about his come-up. On “Rules,” he overtly references the 6 years he spent learning the ropes, talking about how “[…]I just came off of six years of them ***s/From exes to labels and being homeless/I didn't have it, wasn't able.” On “Ex Calling,” he makes a number of references to how his Percocet dependence has alienated the people in his life. It’s both a nice fourth-wall break (the beat samples Future’s “Perkys Calling,” a song more overtly about Percocet addiction) and a cleaver bit of soul-bearing on what is otherwise a fairly run-of-the-mill “I’m too cool for my old girl” song. On “Never Know,” he takes the classic come-up story (basically “all the haters doubted me until I arrived!”), but writes it like a break-up song, wherein the “haters” are reduced to one person who undersold his worth and trampled on his emotions.

Free 6lack is a perplexing, but ultimately rewarding experience to behold. On the one hand, it’s a contemporary album through-and-through, from the feigned blunted emotions to the murky Toronto trap production. Songs like “Ex Calling” and “Prblms” will undoubtedly fit comfortably between tentpole radio artists, if only for a couple weeks. But on the other hand, we see an album that at least attempts to push the boundaries of what’s commercially viable (at least sonically) while still interjecting telling bits of true emotion and vulnerability. It’s a high-wire act for the ages, and listening to it at least once brings with it any number of engaging and interesting observations.



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user ratings (41)
Chart.
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
davidwave4
January 31st 2017


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

All the best, everyone!

SteakByrnes
January 31st 2017


5717 Comments


Clicked for the bear, stayed for the review

Good review my guy

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
February 1st 2017


13459 Comments


"so industry copy loves it."

what does this mean?

Digging: Palehorse - Looking Wet In Public

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
February 1st 2017


13459 Comments


"What’s immediately noteworthy about this album is that, sonically, it’s not exactly groundbreaking."

that doesnt sound particularly noteworthy to me

noteworthy is the wrong choice of phrase me thinks

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
February 1st 2017


13459 Comments


also you namedrop and reference so many other artists and producers in this. try and describe the album without constant comparison to others

davidwave4
February 4th 2017


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Mort. I'll work on doing better in future reviews. I'll also see if I can revise some of this one to be less referential. Thanks for the feedback!

TheStoebZ
February 28th 2017


41 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Better than I thought it would be. Solid through and through

rufinthefury
May 20th 2017


2955 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this is nice

Muppelope
May 20th 2017


1439 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'll have to check this. Overall good review, posd

rufinthefury
May 20th 2017


2955 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I AINT DID SHIT

BUT BE THE REAL THANG



Muppelope
May 20th 2017


1439 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is pretty alright. 3.0 probably.

livinginanotherworld
May 28th 2017


4 Comments


Do your own thing but tell her you wan-t her, why you do that, why you do that

CaimanJesus
June 9th 2017


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dope Album

Digging: .Crrust - Pain Is A Mere Sensation

DarthHideous1
June 11th 2017


193 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That beat on Free is straight fire

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2017


20381 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this guy is p cool

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2017


20381 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

last song is really cool. Ex Calling and Rules are cool, rest is pretty decent moody rap/r&b. a bit boring tho tbh

TVC15
October 24th 2017


9114 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Slaps hard

Digging: The Smiths - Singles

MyShadow
October 24th 2017


311 Comments


i like this

silentstar
December 2nd 2017


2511 Comments


props to this dude for his grammy nominations - he tweeted about wanting to make it since 2014

CaimanJesus
December 2nd 2017


3284 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've heard Prblms 100s of times and it still bangs



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