By Rahul Lal
Artist on the rise, 6lack [pronounced “black”], recently stopped by for an interview with Rap Radar hosts Elliott Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller to discuss his debut album, 2016’s Free 6LACK.
“It’s just kind of weird to observe people and see how they move,” he said. “I just try to make sure I inject myself with lines that make people think like ‘Yo, I feel what he’s talking about.’”
6lack has been recording since 2011, when he dropped out of college to pursue his musical talents. He grew up as a battle rapper, but decided to take a more song-oriented direction.
“Just being super engaged in battle rapping like I was,” he said, “I obviously kind of saw where battle rappers ended up and how there was always this wall of ‘Okay, he’s a great rapper but can he make a song?’ I was just like I need to figure out how to make a song before I expire or something happens where people are just like he’s a great rapper but I don’t really want to listen to his music. I took what I learned from battle rap and just applied it to R&B.”
“It’s so easy to compare sounds and topics and stuff like that but I feel like what separates anybody from everybody is just who you are,” 6lack remarked. “At the end of the day, I’m me and nobody can be me. I’m not trying to be anybody else… I don’t ask for much. All I want to do is work. All I’ve ever said is let me pay the bills, let me bring something new to this and they just couldn’t understand how.”
Originally, 6lack was signed to a label that promoted hip-hop the way most labels typically do: via imagery with nice cars, flashy jewelry and vibrant personalities. He realized all of that really wasn’t for him and actually took a soundbite of himself deciding to quit that label and put it on the intro for “Alone/EA6” on Free 6lack.
“I shouldn’t have been recording it,” he admitted laughingly. “This was at a time that I was super into voice memos and I would voice memo everything. If I was having a great conversation in the studio and everybody is like smoking or whatever the case, I would just hit it because you never know what you can use for a skit or anything. This was while I was telling them I wanted out and in the middle of saying some crazy stuff, I was just like ‘Wait a minute, let me get this for the books.’”
The ending to “EA6” was actually done in his manager’s house as he was homeless at the time. A couple of the album’s most popular tracks, “PRBLMS” and “Luving U” were made in a kitchen.
“I moved in with my manager in February and from February to February, I probably made about 200 songs,” he revealed. “That was that process of me just making songs and being like ‘I love this,’ then a couple months later being like ‘I don’t really love it that much anymore so what can I do to change that next time I make a song so that I don’t keep having this problem?’”
In 2013, 6lack famously tweeted out that he would put in 10,000 hours of work to become the artist he wanted to be. That work came to fruition in Free 6LACK.
“I think that when people see that tweet, they see somebody vigorously writing every single day,” he began to comment. “I feel like my practice was obviously me writing, me recording, me rehearsing, me listening to my favorite people, me just kind of studying the game, studying social media. I was around for a lot of the stuff that has happened the last four or five years on the internet, so I got to see people come and go, I learned a lot just from watching and that was a lot of stuff I got to process and practice and take in to the point where, when we did drop the first two songs, it didn’t fall on deaf ears.”
To listen to the full interview, you can check out the latest episode of Rap Radar on CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network.