Before he was signed to Flo Rida’s record label at age 19, 6lack’s journey as a successful artist began as a battle rapper in middle school, spitting bars with the likes of pre-fame heavy-weight Young Thug. The years that followed, between then and 2016, saw the young creator honing his craft, establishing the signature brooding hip-hop he’s known for today, with his focused efforts resulting in the release of his debut album Free 6lack. Almost four years later the rapper has entrenched himself into the folds of the rap world, his decade of experience cementing him as a musical veteran, and his continued commitment to creating music gaining him countless accolades. From Grammy nominations, to an MTV video music award, to the release of his best selling sophomore album ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’, which was named one of Billboard’s ‘Top 10 R&B Albums of 2018’.
Now, in 2020, comes EP 6pc Hot— named modestly after a serious staple of the Atlanta food scene, wings. It’s an EP that sees 6lack observing the world from behind closed windows as he explores the nuances of quarantine. Yet also doubles as an homage to the rapper’s hometown with the release of his very own hot sauce ‘600 degrees’ alongside the record. Interestingly, it also seems to reflect the laid-back attitude 6lack croons over the phone, ‘if it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t’. It’s a mentality that explains the conception of the release; never intended to be a full-blown project, but concluding as a six-track EP.
In both a multilayered attempt to immerse fans in the culture of Atlanta by pairing food and music, the EP 6pc Hot also acts as an introspective timestamp on an evolving world. We sat down with the Atlanta crooner and hot-sauce tycoon to talk reclaiming blackness, missing life outside of quarantine and his new EP.
I just wanted to say, I’m so hyped on the project. Can you tell me a little bit about how 6pc Hot came together?
I was making a lot of this music before quarantine started and then we went into lockdown. It wasn’t the initial plan to release a project. We were going to drop a song, and then we were going to drop two, and then it just kinda turned into a group of songs. I’ve done a good job of hoarding music over the years, so instead of hoarding I just wanted to put some music out and show people what I was working on. It’s six songs and everything else just kinda fell in place the way it is.
Well it worked out perfectly, I’ve listened to it like a million times. What are the main themes and emotions you wanted to explore with 6pc Hot? Was it to put people into a certain mindset?
Honestly, it was a direct stream of what I was thinking during those first days of quarantine. I think that the immediate feeling was just a bit of everything. There’s me talking about what’s going on socially in the world and how I feel about it, and just me talking about wanting to go outside. There are moments where I talk about, you know, just having a long night and just enjoying myself with somebody. Each thing that I missed while I was up in quarantine ended up being a topic. I touched on five different vibes, five different topics and then there was a sixth song that ended up getting voted on the project.
So, how has staying inside affected you? Do you feel more productive or do you feel less inspired?
You know it’s been up and down. Sometimes I’m more inspired than other times, and sometimes I feel more burnt out. The weight of everything going on is more of a focus than me making music. Some days I have those creative spurts and then some days I have those creative blocks. But I just try to follow myself, try not to be too hard on myself. And if it comes out, then perfect and if it doesn’t, then that’s great and we can come back to it.
Yeah, I feel that about the themes that you’re touching on in the EP. ‘Outside’ feels completely relevant to the lockdown that the world is going through.
Yeah absolutely. I made that song when we were all in the middle of being in quarantine for the first time, like I said, it’s about something as simple as wanting to go outside and enjoying myself. Then the second verse was about relationships, about doing better so they could go as far as they could go. ‘Outside’ is one of my favourites off the project, just because of how it makes me feel. It’s definitely a timestamp as far as what’s going on.
That’s what Nina Simone says, ‘An artist’s duty is to reflect the times’, and I think you definitely nailed that with 6pc Hot. Just wanted to ask, how did ‘Know Your Rights’ come together? Is it the first time getting on a Track with Lil Baby?
Yeah, this is the first time connecting with him ever. It’s crazy because obviously he’s become an amazing, consistent artist. So this was a new piece, a new relationship. He messaged me a few years ago before everything was where it is for him, but I never saw the message until I talked to him, but we still got to connect, we still got to make a song together.
I just wanted to switch gears and talk a bit about the Black Lives Matter Movement. I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and then moved to Australia, you’re in Atlanta. I was wondering, how has the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement affected you? Because I’m sure it’s affected us differently.
I mean for me, I would say it only progresses more and more every year. With everything that happens it’s just more of a thing to say even louder, it’s another thing to bring to the forefront and I’m glad that we’ve reached a point where people are being held accountable. And it is very clear that people that aren’t speaking in regards to advocating, if you aren’t speaking in regards to what’s important right now, then you just aren’t on the right side of history. There’s no more space for straddling the line or not getting involved. I can honestly and confidently say that a lot of the world benefits from Black culture, at the very least when things are going on that are affecting us directly, we want the people who appreciate us in every other realm to appreciate us when it comes to Black Lives Matter.
I think, in general, Black people that are spread out across the western world initially get the fire in their bellys from Americans, and it’s people like you with, for example, your all-black casts for your clips, that are so inspiring.
Yeah, and that’s why I say that it’s good that a few of us are collectively coming together to stand and realize how important we really are. It’s gone without being said for long enough and now it’s time for us to reclaim it and be proud. That’s why I was happy that we could celebrate it so widely this year ‘cause it’s always been there but now there’s a new sense of confidence kicking in, there’s a new sense of learning. People are more in tune with who they are and where they come from.
Yeah, it’s the biggest social justice movement of all time. Getting back to the music real quick. You’re a pretty much certified OG in the music world, how do you feel like you’ve changed since Free 6lack, are you still hungry, do you feel accomplished or a bit of both?
Still hungry, sometimes I feel like I’m starving, even though I’m not actually starving. It’s just a sense of wanting to do better, to learn more, to be the best version of myself that I know I can be and I know that that doesn’t come easy. So with every project, every album, everything that I do I’m always trying to figure out how to progress, how to learn more, how to do more, how to show more and still be as hungry as I was. Me and my producer were talking about it the other day, like missing the simple days. It’s so crazy cause it wasn’t simple by means of what we had, it was hard, it was tough back then, but it was simple in the form that all we wanted to do was make something; make a dollar, make an opportunity. Now that we’re here we have to figure out what the next step looks like or what the next thing that will fulfil us is. What is that? What would that be?
And, I heard that you were selling merch with 6pc Hot?
Yep we’re doing merch, we’re doing hot sauce, only because I’ve always been a big fan of hot sauce since I was a kid. I think as much as I use it, as much as I talk about it, it’s only right to have my own product, and to be able to include that with the EP, but also keep it going past the EP, have another outlet and another thing to just kind of put out into the world to let people enjoy. ‘Cause just as much as music, everyone loves to eat. It’s been cool figuring out little content pieces for this ‘cause it’s been centered around paying homage to the city, paying homage to the things that I like, and including that in a package that comes with music.
Last question, what message would you like to send to all your fans out there who are about to bump 6pc Hot over the coming weeks?
All of those songs, like I said, are to cover a variety of things, a variety of feelings and all that I ever want out of anything is for someone to take something good from it. If it’s one, if it’s two, if it’s three, if it’s the entire project, take something from it, find something from it, feel something from it and let’s all just kinda stay up man. We’ve had tough times. It’s been tough socially, economically, personally, emotionally, there’ve been too many things going on and I think a lot of people are feeling a lot of the same feelings. I just want to let people know that I’m feeling the same things too.