The qualities and features that draw a person to an artist and turns them into listeners can be a difficult process, especially for a young artist. To essentially take the path less traveled by and create music true to the musician’s passion, intended purpose, soul and artistry is even more of a struggling feat, especially while surrounded by the deafening mainstream sound that has engulfed present day hip-hop and R&B.
24-year-old Ricardo Valdez Valentine, better known by his stage name 6LACK, is a rapper, songwriter and singer from Atlanta, Georgia. 6LACK, pronounced ‘black,’ has been in the music business since his late teens but is recently making serious waves with his new album, ‘Free 6LACK,’ released in Nov. of 2016.
Almost as if listeners are peering into Valentine’s personal diary, ‘Free 6LACK’ is an expression of his journey with relationships as a whole within the music industry and within his own life. Signed with a label that kept him artistically captive for five to six years, Valentine was unable to release the music in which he loved and was forced to create music that he despised.
Now, working with an Atlanta-based collective called LoveRenaissance (LVRN) and receiving the artistic creativity he very much so craved, ‘Free 6LACK’ is an embodiment and statement of the last five or six years of his life, claiming his freedom from past relationships and free from all ways of past thinking and old feelings.
Posing with a black bear on his album cover, ‘Free 6LACK’ is made up of many different flavors and meanings of work, yet all songs still possess the same melodic, smooth sound that sets the stage for ear-opening rhythms and mind-expanding lyrical content that captures an array of emotions while sharing his stories and perspectives.
Valentine’s main goal for his latest project is for it to be relatable, he told Complex Magazine. “Once this project dropped and I started seeing reactions, the main word I saw was, ‘Yo, I relate, I feel this, I went through this.’ It was just seeing tons of people actually connect instead of saying, ‘Oh, that was a cool song.’ It was designed to make people give some kind of reaction.” Valentine said. “Whether you like it, love it, or it’s not for you, at the end of the day I just wanted to get some kind of reaction.”
Reaction is most definitely what he achieved. From songs such as both of his albums hits, “PRBLMS” and “Ex Calling,” Valentine’s apathetic message and emotionally careless mindset is short-lived when the entire album is given a listen. ‘Free 6LACK’ has no trouble inspiring late-night calls and texts to exes with songs such as “Luving U,” expressing regret in “MTFU,” and pain in “Worst Luck,” while serenading our soft and loving hearts with smooth and simple songs such as “Gettin’ Old,” and simultaneously hinting on his sexual prowess with “Learn Ya.” Not only is Valentine a pro at getting us all in our feels, but he makes it a point to keep us on our grind as well with tracks such as “Free,” and “Rules,” while asserting his authenticity and truth in “Alone/EA6,” and “Never Know.”
All in all, Valentine’s ‘Free 6LACK’ project takes each listener on an emotionally evoking journey whether his album is played straight through or on shuffle. As for future music, we can most definitely expect to hear more from Valentine. “I always feel eager to because I know that listeners kind of need something to relate to as far as music right now.” Valentine told Billboard Magazine. “Everybody is kind of where they are as far as their career and their success. There’s not that many people that are still in the jungle or in the midst of dealing with a lot of regular life shit. I feel more eager than anything to get that stuff out so people can feel like somebody’s going through it with them.”