6LACK's dullen powers strike harder this time around.
I'll begin by saying, I do see a method to his madness; 6LACK is mastering the lexical changes of his voice. The message he leaves behind is interminable. The biggest issue with East Atlanta Love Letter isn't really a problem of subject material, but what lies outside its bracketology. A far more expressive world exists outside the imagined boundaries of 6LACK's sophomore album, much to his detriment.
The repetitive strain of 6LACK's "reactionary logic" wears thin as a musical idea; it’s a classic scenario that persists within the specter of "Alt-R&B." A well-meaning individual like 6LACK could very well spend the rest of eternity chasing static energy for no definable reason. Suddenly he'll realize that the clamless shell he picked up on the beachfront does not actually consist of "love."
On East Atlanta Love Letter, the frenetic chase almost becomes too difficult to bear, but not for those who find respite under his inhospitable glare. His fans, with whom he shares a close bond via the Internet, seem to connect with his unvarying tone. What I perceive as a tireless obsession with "being different" might be a call to worship, for all I know. I should mention, that I walked in with an open mind, and secondly, I expected some kind of "swan song" or departure from his home environment. The element of surprise has no bearing on how I feel about the album, but it does offer additional context. East Atlanta Love Letter doesn't feel like it was based around the temperate climate it was created in -- like a barefoot project with a heartwarming hook line.
Some of you are going to enjoy the emotional aura the album evokes, a relatable feeling of strangeness that becomes unshakable by the midway point. By then a J. Cole verse is the only gravitational force pushing us, 6LACK included, up for air. Three songs prior, 6LACK ditches his act to share the podium with Future in their ode to Atlanta's Zone 6. The titular track is unlike anything else on the LP, on the grounds that it feels less burdened by textural flashcards. It also doesn't hurt to have Future assume a soothsayer role on the project. The track speaks to the attachment both men share for their hometown, but the rest of the album feels less grounded in comparison.
In truth, 6LACK seems willing to underscore the weight of history and how it relates to his identity. He simply chooses the difficult route by converting his ideas through abstractions, something I liken to auditory-visual synesthesia. For the record, I do like the direction he took on several of the songs, partly because I could sense (and still do) that his creativity relies heavily on sensory detail. But with that said, he does run the risk of rendering this conversion process into a negative crutch. The songwriting process can be technical, especially on a particularly elaborate score of music, but that doesn't excuse the more ineffectual attempts at emotional learning on East Atlanta. The trouble with 6LACK is that some of the bad habits he exhibited on Free 6LACK have crawled back into view.
Mind you, my first and second impression of 6LACK isn't unequivocal, but I would like to see him avoid the trappings of "social engineering." The production value is so dense, even the singles he drops are concept-based, but I shouldn't feel more alienated in such an intimate arrangement. Forgive him for the faulty logic behind his auditory-visual crutch, but it still remains to be seen whether we can withstand the pressure of him redressing his anxiety across a full-length album. The emotional synthesis is so integral to 6LACK that he sometimes opts for "conversational" rapping instead of weaving together a song, as he should.
Before embarking on this project he toured extensively under The Weeknd’s watchful eye. The tourney served as a precursor to him cutting his locks, parenthood and his relationship vis-à-vis his fanbase, which he questions unabashedly on "Nonchalant" as well as the other functions of his solitary existence. Even if the Starboy tour experience taught 6LACK how to measure his self-worth, the remainder of his emotional learning remained untested. To me, East Atlanta Love Letter is a project lacking in posterity.