USA TODAY International Edition

6LACK is back with reflective ‘ Since I Have a Lover’

- Naledi Ushe

6LACK is back.

The R& B star’s new album, “Since I Have a Lover” ( out now), his first since 2018, takes a vulnerable look at his life after seeking therapy.

6LACK ( pronounced “Black”), 30, went through a “four- year period of selfdoubt, depression, bad relationsh­ips, creativity blocks, homelessne­ss and money problems” before his success, he says.

The 19- track album “SIHAL” is the singer’s way of showing fans they can still “thrive” after going through struggle, “if you seriously apply yourself and hold yourself accountabl­e.”

6LACK, born Ricardo Valdez Valentine Jr., broke through in 2016 with his debut album, “Free 6lack,” which included the hits “PRBLMS,” “Free” and “Ex Calling” and earned him two Grammy nomination­s. He scored his third nomination in 2019 for “Pretty Little Fears” from his second album, “East Atlanta Love Letter.”

6LACK talks about the spiritual journey of his new album

But 6LACK’s depression lingered and was exacerbate­d by the COVID- 19 pandemic. He realized he needed help after one of the closest people in his life called him out for putting up the facade that he had it all together. “Things started to actually fall apart,” he says, and he decided to start therapy.

Throughout his career, he has “promoted healing” and “spiritual and emotional growth,” but in his rut, 6LACK says, he wasn’t practicing what he preached.

This period of depression also affected the Baltimore- born, Atlanta- raised artist’s music output. The singer and rapper often recorded and scrapped his work because he didn’t “have something good to say. It’s almost like, ‘ If you

don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.’ ”

The album’s opening track, “Cold Feet,” is a nod to his fears about having a comeback after his hiatus, “Spirited Away” describes his awareness that he’s not exactly where he wants to be mentally but knows “where to go and I know how to do it,” and “Preach” is about his desire to give back to his community.

6LACK promises a tour for album ‘ Since I Have a Lover’

6LACK is preparing to have a “therapy session” with his fans in the form of a world tour this fall. “We can go through each album and we can graduate from one feeling to another feeling and then end the show on the highest note” with his reflective “Since I Have a Lover.”

His moody sound has lent itself to many collaborat­ions about love and heartbreak, including “IMPORTED” with Jessie Reyez, “OTW” with Khalid and Ty Dolla $ ign, “Calling My Phone” with Lil Tjay, and “Love Songs” with Kaash Paige.

In contrast, “SIHAL” has minimal features, with Wale as the only co- collaborat­or. There are samples from Yebba and Sting, as well as interludes from close friends and family. This is 6LACK’s “diary,” and he’s keeping the story close to home. “These are my thoughts, and I think I can pretty much handle it on my own,” he says.

Being ‘ neck- deep’ in love helped shape 6LACK’s ‘ SIHAL’

“SIHAL” isn’t just about his mental health, it’s about love. “I’m knee- deep, waist- deep, neck- deep ( in love),” he says of his relationsh­ip with fellow singer Bianca Quiñones ( known by her stage name QUIN). The couple made its debut in 2019 with collaborat­ive single “Mushroom Chocolate.”

“It’s an everyday practice and I’m just starting to acknowledg­e it more for what it is and not for what I want it to feel like or what I want the end result to be,” he says.

Toxic love is discussed in “Playin House,” lessons learned from love in “Chasing Feeling,” and the warmth of healthy relationsh­ips in the title track “Since I Have a Lover.”

To 6LACK, fatherhood is a ‘ big mirror’

Love also is looked at through the lens of family. 6LACK’s daughter, Syx Rose Valentine, 6, whom he shares with model Jaycina Almond, has been a part of his personal growth.

Fatherhood is “a big mirror,” he says. “Even though it’s really, really rewarding, it’s also another reality check. … Somebody’s watching your every move, your every emotion, your every moment.”

Shaping her developmen­t has taught 6LACK to bring back his own “innocence” and experience joy in a more childlike state. “You can have fun and you can take off your cool and you can smile and you can laugh and you can be silly,” he says. “It’s just been amazing.”

Unlearning has been a large part of 6LACK’s hiatus, which is evident throughout “SIHAL.”

When fans listen to the album, he says, they’ll quickly discover the answer to “Where has 6LACK been?”

He has been hurting, healing, admitting when he’s wrong, finding ways to make things right, and emerging as his best self.

As he says in his lyrics to “SIHAL,” “Feel like a million bucks or somethin.’ ”

 ?? PROVIDED BY JACK MCKAIN ?? 6LACK's album “Since I Have a Lover” is out now.
PROVIDED BY JACK MCKAIN 6LACK's album “Since I Have a Lover” is out now.

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