What does R&B sound like today? The once-dying genre filled with sexual innuendos and soulful riffs has quickly modernized into a fusion of several elements. Chilling vocals and sassy wordplay are no longer revered; instead, fans love the way an artist tells a love story. They want something they can sing off-key at the top of their lungs and dedicate to their exes. R&B is in a great place this year, and alternative-R&B singer 6lack is making a name for himself while incorporating what he knows and loves best: hip-hop.
6lack, born Ricardo Valdez Valentine, calls himself an “R&B nigga with a hip-hop core,” according to his lyrics in “Scripture,” from his second album, East Atlanta Love Letter, released this past September. He can effortlessly hold a note over hard-hitting Atlanta-influenced trap beats, but he never misses an opportunity to flex his rapping skills too. Often, he breaks from singing to deliver a rap montage, as he does in his hit 2016 single “Prblms.” Hip-hop isn’t new to him. In fact, it’s where his career began.
6lack was born in Baltimore before relocating to Atlanta with his parents when he was 3 years old. He spent his adolescent years on the battle-rap scene, ripping kids apart on the school grounds and putting classic "yo mama" jokes to shame. His rap career continued, eventually landing him a record deal in 2011 with Flo Rida's International Music Group. It allowed him to quit school and move to Miami, a SoundCloud rapper’s dream. Or so he thought.
“In the three to four years that I was signed, I never did one paid show, ever,” 6lack told Joe Budden in an interview for The
“I was managing myself because they wouldn't move [my music], and they didn't really know how to move anything,” he told Billboard. “I kind of went into meeting [with the record label LoveRenaissance] with the attitude that I've already done all this branding and already built a pretty good fan base by myself. [I was like] what can
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It seems 6lack spends as much time correcting the mispronunciation of his stage name as he does making music or touring. His Twitter bio reads, “pronounced black," and he wants people to say it right because there’s nothing worse than being called the wrong name by interviewers and fans, especially when you make damn good music. His music sounds like a 17-year-old spilling love woes in a diary. His lyrics bite hard as he unveils the truth of his past love life, being a new father, and engaging in pillow talk on a cold winter night, but they don’t stray from the roots of R&B.
6lack fills the void between singing passionately about love and rapping viciously. He has transformed the genre from its coveted old-school baby-making songs to tracks that speak to both R&B and hip-hop audiences. Though he didn’t invent the trap&B subgenre, he sure is riding in a lane of his own since trap-soul favorite Bryson Tiller faded from the scene. As 6lack continues to genre-bend and allow hip-hop to shine while pairing it with pacifying vocals, he's proving the growth of R&B and its subgenres can reach no limit.
6lack. 8 p.m. Tuesday, December 18, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets are sold out; for VIP table seating, email firstname.lastname@example.org. All ages.