The mysterious R&B artist opens up for our forthcoming Cadence Issue.
6lack. 6lack. 6lack. You say his name Black, ok? It’s easy once you get your eyes around it, and if you look down the song listing for his debut from LVRN/Interscope Records, FREE 6LACK (the emancipatory title referring to the restrictive record contract that kept him trapped for five years) you realize that this is someone who has been making up his own private algebra (‘Six’ being his numerology Life Path Number).
Black and white graphics and moody videos have created a mysterious aura around the young Atlantan (born in Baltimore as Ricardo Valdez Valentine) – 24 years old at the time of writing. He’s free now and ready to share his “PRBLMS” (which broke through in a major way thanks to Apple Music) and his “Ex Calling” – an amalgamation of a load of exes into one super-ex which samples Future’s Purple Reign. He’ll also tell you about being “Alone,” his “Worst Luck,” and a “First F*ck” (featuring Jhené Aiko). So who better to talk to for this issue that explores heartbreak?
Sitting on the edge of the world in the vast concrete, glass, and granite space-house that is the Sheats-Goldstein residence, we first discuss his feelings for the city spread out below us. “I love L.A. I take it in moderation though. Sometimes I can love it a little bit too much. I feel like being out here, you can get a little too comfy, you know, lose focus. I take it in moderation. I love the people out here.”
Dealing with difficult emotions is the fire behind Valentine’s sensitive and sincere flow. So what does heartbreak really mean to 6LACK? He explains: “For me, personally: growth. Not the end of the world, not being defeated, not being down and out, but just growth. Learning from whatever happened and taking it and turning it into inspiration instead of something that brings you down.” It all ends up in the work: “In my life, personally, I’ve used heartbreak as fuel to give me an extra kick, more to write about, more to share with other people to let them know people go through the same thing as you go through.”
In “Loyal” Valentine professes to be psychic; but not psychic enough to always know what’s going on with the girl in question.“I think that being around somebody and sharing that kind of space and that kind of time and that part of each other kinda gives you like an extra link to them. You know more about that person, you know what they are going to say before they say it. You know what they are feeling. If you say ‘What’s wrong’ and they say ‘Nothing,’ and you say, ‘No, what’s wrong, tell me?’” We have all been there...
When was he last heartbroken? “My last heartbreak was a kind of weird one, because it wasn’t somebody breaking my heart, it was me dropping the ball in a situation, then kinda analyzing it and being like, ‘Damn, you could have done better, you could have made a better exit. You could have acted a little bit differently.’” And like most of us, he doesn’t like the taste of his own medicine. “Its just disappointing because I try to make sure that whatever I am doing I am the best of a person that I can be. Doing what I would want someone to do in regards to me. For once I was on the otherside and was like ‘I don’t like this feeling.’”
And what comes next? A lot more, says Valentine: “I think in general, when people listen to the project that came out in November, [FREE 6LACK], they get the idea that what I’m singing about or what I am talking about is something that I am dwelling in, or that I am stuck in, when actually, by the time it was recorded, it was out, you know, like I got it out of my system. Now I just want to continue and progress and talk about whatever is going on right now. Or to go back and give them further detail into some of the stuff that I hinted at on the project.” It seems we can expect much more to come from the mind and heart of Valentine.
Written by Hannah Bhuiya
Photographed by Emanuele D’Angelo
Styled by Zoe Costello
Groomer: Christine Nelli for The Wall Group
Location: “Above Horizon” James Turrell Skyspace