6lack’s 10,000 Hours of Practice Pay Off on ‘Free 6lack’

How far are you willing to go when the industry tries to keep you down?

Potential. We all want everyone to see it in us, but only a select few do until you make it by any means. When we entrust someone to help us — a company, a record label, a person — we truly believe that they’re going to get us where we can’t go by ourselves. Unfortunately, plans don’t work out in our favor. Take Atlanta singer 6lack for instance. In 2011, he signed to a label lead by a major artist, but the years went by and it was clear he didn’t believe in him.

When the industry tries to stop a man like 6lack, he eventually perseveres and becomes the artist he hoped his former label would help him be. There’s shades of Frank Ocean’s path in 6lack’s. Frank was signed to Def Jam in 2009, sat for two years until he released Nostalgia, Ultra, and just left this year. 6lack collected dust on a shelf, but he knew his worth and his potential, so he left before he could craft a project that would get the label’s attention. Now, he’s bearing titles that read “next up” and “future superstar.” His story was fascinating long before I ever clicked play on the music, and Free 6lack, his debut album, only backs up what he felt about his talents.

One of the greatest strengths of an R&B artist is pulling real life situations into the music. It’s like a cheat code since we connect with people who are speaking what we are going or went through. For 6lack, he’s able to master this — which makes sense if you factor in his now infamous 10,000 hours tweet. Who hasn’t felt like they have awful luck with dating? Or dealt with exes still bothering them? He explores both concepts on “Worst Luck” and “Ex Calling” respectively. In the process, he establishes his own identity as an artist, not a hit record.

“Half of them don’t even know your name,” he vents on the outro. “I don’t want that. I want people to know who the f*ck I am. I want people to know what I stand for. I want people to be personal and know this is 6lack. This is what he believe in.” The moment feels like something you can’t duplicate. He’s speaking with such passion in between the verses on “Alone / EA6.” It’s a testament to everything he’s endured thus far. Where the rest of the album introduces you to bits and pieces of his life, the outro peels back more layers so you leave knowing 6lack did what he hoped he could do.

In many ways, this is the beginning for 6lack. The last five years have all been prepped for this moment. The weight of the world must feel lifted from his shoulders, but in no way does it become easier. He’s on the cusp of making it. If anything, he sounds ready. “I know I’m one person but I kinda feel like this ripple effect is gonna impact a lot of people.” Free 6lack has just arrived to set up the tidal wave.

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