It’s been a while. 6LACK’s scorching, defiantly creative 2018 document ‘East Atlanta Love Letter’ ranked among the best of that year’s releases, presenting an artist who moved in his own lane. Capable of both angelic R&B and harsh raps, 6LACK drew from both wells, resulting in a singular brew. Fast forward six years: dense, complex, and introspective, ‘Since I Have A Lover’ finds 6LACK recalibrating his intentions, warning Apple Music in a pre-release interview: “I made it a priority to take care of myself first…”
This empathetic selfishness comes through in the songwriting. These are his feelings, his stories, his narrative – it’s a work of singular faith in oneself, with ‘Since I Have A Lover’ presenting some of his most personal work to date. It’s there right from the first note – the intimacy of opener ‘cold feet’, with its spartan, fragmentary, almost illusionary feel.
The record asserts itself on ‘Inwood Hill Park’, with its boom-bap physicality and electronic paranoia. The title song introduces a recurring trope, with woozy guitar chords underpinning his vocal – it’s partly a nod to those Millennial R&B jams, but there’s also a slight rock feel across the record, too. Indeed, it’s Chorus pedal stomps hark back to early 90s studio techniques, the gloss allowed to fade into lysergic colours.
‘Fatal Attraction’ peers through the rain, the jazz piano chords reaching towards the timeless. ‘Spirited Away’ hinges on those neat classical guitar flourishes, with 6LACK’s vocal carrying a pristine degree of melodic charm.
Lyrically, it’s one of his most daring thus far. ‘Since I Have A Lover’ feels with loss and identity, with love and faith, an hour-long treatise on his life to date. An artist who has known actual hardship – the couch-surfing and label travails of his SoundCloud era – and the pressures success can enact, both poles seem to haunt this record.
And indeed, it’s his record. Eschewing feature-culture, there are only two guests, here – QUIN on the album highlight ‘wunna dem’ and ‘Temporary’ with man-of-the-moment Don Toliver. Instead, the focus is on 6LACK’s voice, and his expression – and most of all the narrative bent and subtle world-building of his songwriting.
‘Rent Free’ opens the project’s climactic space, while the supple soul of ‘Stories In Motion’ thrills with its ingenuity. Closing with ‘NRH’, this is an easy album to lose yourself in, but a difficult project to truly grasp. 19 songs, almost a full hour of music, a glimpse into a psyche that is frequently dominated by darkness; ‘Since I Have A Lover’ is 6LACK’s crowning statement.
Words: Robin Murray