LOS ANGELES – 6lack was on a hot streak, dishing out Grammy-worthy work and being featured on songs with music’s elite including Elton John, Calvin Harris and J Cole. But while the singer-rapper was riding high, he neglected one important element: His mental health.
As a result, 6lack’s reluctance to resolve past issues and his ongoing depression — which was heightened during the pandemic — eventually rocked his mental state so hard that he struggled to create even one song. After much-needed constructive criticism from his partner, 6lack decided to step away from music and seek therapy following his critically acclaimed 2018 release “East Atlanta Love Letter.”
With his first project in five years, 6lack (which is pronounced as Black) explores self-love, his healing and the journey to finding true happiness in life. His third studio album “Since I Have a Lover” was released late March. This week, the three-time Grammy nominated artist announced a North American and Europe concert tour starting in October.
In a recent interview, 6lack spoke with The Associated Press about why his mental health made him take a step back, the meaning behind his stage name and the reason he prefers to work with women.
Remarks have been edited for brevity and clarity. ___
AP: Your stage name has been mispronounced so many times. How do you feel about it?
6LACK: I think the name pronunciation thing will always be a thing. It’s never been an issue. It makes for a really good conversation. It makes for great jokes. It makes for good merch that I sell. Before anybody ever mispronounced my name, I came up with my name and I mispronounced my name. I have already been at the end of every joke of it... But if I spelled it Black, you wouldn’t be able to find me on the Internet at all.
AP: Why is the number six so important to you?
6LACK: The six has been a reoccurring number in my life. I was born in the sixth month. I grew up in zone six. My daughter’s name is Syx (pronounced “six.”) Black has been a favorite color of mine. It was kind of where I felt my comfort when I was coming up, and I didn’t necessarily talk to everybody as much. It was just like my comfort color. I would put it on, and I would feel like I’m in my super suit or my uniform, and I can just duck off in the corner and do my own thing.
AP: What contributed to you mentally hitting a wall?
6LACK: I had dedicated much of my time and my energy to mastering my craft and focusing on solely making music and making better music to the point where I just wasn’t taking care of anything else. Maybe that works for a couple of months, maybe that works for a couple of years, maybe for a whole album or two run. But eventually, everything that I didn’t take care of started to feel like it was hovering over me. It was on my back, on my shoulders. I couldn’t even breathe the way I would want to breathe or think the way I would want to think in my regular day because I have too many things cluttering my space. I was focused on music and that made me feel like I was on task, but there were other tasks I needed to take care of.
AP: Like what?
6LACK: I needed to make sure I was taking care of my relationships. I needed to make sure that I was having conversations with my mom, my dad, my brother and my sister as far as why we might feel disconnected at this point in my life... Eventually, I guess God was like, ‘Well, if you aren’t exercising all the gifts that I gave you, then I’m just going to take this one thing and you can’t get out any more ideas until you prioritize what’s really important.’ The music is important for sure, but it’s one part of who I am.
AP: How did you feel the need to pull back from music?
6LACK: Things just kept reoccurring to the point where my partner, the person who's next to me every day says “You might look cool like you got everything covered to everybody else, but it's not looking that way to me. And if this is going to continue to look this way, then you should just do that on your own, by yourself."
It's a hard thing to hear and not let your ego get in the way. But for me, it just took that repetitive lesson of hearing moments like her putting me in my place. Moments of making music, and it's not coming out the way that I want. Moments of being frustrated and reactive in moments in situations when I'm not a reactive person. All these personality traits started to pop up and they don't align with who I've known myself to be. If I feel more reactive than I felt in the past, then something's wrong, and I need to speak to somebody.
AP: Through your healing, what you want people to take away from your album?
6LACK: I want people to be a bigger, better version of yourself every single day and every single way that you can manage to do it. Giving yourself grace whenever you fall short... Whatever that you love, find your thing and really pour into it and really feel good about it and hype yourself up. Take breaks when you need to.
AP: You prefer to work with women. Why?
6LACK: Working with women just feels like you're stepping into a hug. I can be more vulnerable. Obviously, I want to be able to get to the same place with my brothers. But it's just automatic when I hop on a song with a woman.
AP: Which do you enjoy more: Singing or rapping?
6LACK: As of right now, I enjoy singing more. I've been able to get out more of how I feel and what I think through singing... It's basically what got me to where I am today. I think the next thing to explore will be figuring out a rap project or rap album or rap moment — even if it's an EP. Just getting back into how I actually started because there's more to me that I haven't tapped into yet.