It was in 2016 that the world discovered 6lack, whose name is pronounced “black” and whose figure 6 is a reference to the famous “zone 6” in Atlanta, cited by countless rappers in their tracks. Although he was born in Baltimore (in 1992), it was in the state capital of Georgia that Ricardo Valdez Valentine (his real name) was reborn in a musical baptism that would forge his identity. Since that first 2016 album, Free 6lack, all his innovative and highly sensitive R&B songs can be said to add up to a long love letter to the city where he came of age.
His life in Atlanta began much like that of many young AfricanAmericans. “In my earliest memories of Atlanta, we were living near Memorial Drive and I didn’t have to worry because my mom took care of everything. We lived in a dirty housing block, but I didn’t know anything different and I was a child, so I simply spent my time running around outside until nightfall. I lived like that for ten years. Growing up in Atlanta in that neighbourhood taught me that a bad decision can have big consequences. I learnt through experience, as I lost friends and let myself get caught up in street trouble. But once you take control of your life and stop following others, good things can happen. I had a gift, and Atlanta gave me a story.”
In a city that constantly produces new talent, and whose musical output, which currently dominates the charts, is worth billions of dollars, the young Ricardo fell into the music business at a precocious age. Influenced by his peers, he first tried his hand at rap. “Music became part of my life the moment I was able to write my first lyrics, which was around the age of 6 or 7. Then I continued, just for fun, and for the competition, because I took part in rap battles, until I was about 12 or 13 when I started recording my own tracks in a studio. From high school on I knew I was going to make a career in music. I never slowed down or gave up, I’ve never done anything else. I just had a job for two weeks and I spent a year at university before dropping out of my studies.”