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Posted under: Opinion Editorial Desk

Dear 6LACK, Thank You For Showing Black Men Like Me The Importance Of Emotional Vulnerability In 'East Atlanta Love Letter'

An open letter to an R&B artist with a hip-hop core who uses his music to help fans deal with love and everything that comes with it.

Dear 6LACK,

You did it again with this one.

I remember when I listened to your debut album, Free 6LACK. From beginning to end, the album introduced me to an artist who was fearless in being his whole self, when it came to the music he put out and the lyrics he let loose from the confines of his heart.

Your first album served as a celebration of being freed from the box your former label tried to pigeonhole you into. You were finally given the space you needed to unapologetically let your music serve as a therapeutic outlet, and  took the phrase “wearing your emotions on your sleeve” to the next level – ultimately choosing to wear them on the tracks you bestowed upon your fans.

The reason why your first album resonated with so many fans is because you took the tugging you did on your own heartstrings, and turned it into a musical medley that reflected the things we go through as human beings, largely due to the flaws that we possess. You opened up your heart and let us feel like we knew you, because of the turbulence you experienced while flying through the ups and downs of love and relationships. Both men and women recognized the real in you, because you weren’t scared to recognize it within yourself first.

For nearly two years, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the follow up to the album, which grasped our attention by introducing us to a songwriter and artist genuinely dedicated to personifying emotion,  making it OK to express feelings that aren’t typically expressed publicly. After listening to your sophomore soundtrack, East Atlanta Love Letter, I have to thank you for being so relentless in your journey to unveiling the mask us black men so often wear, when it comes to showcasing emotional vulnerability.

I don’t know when it happened or what has caused it, but for so long, black men have been accustomed to piecing together a persona that displays a disregard for openness — a tendency to not let those we care about and  who care about us not only hear our feelings, but to even have the opportunity to help us navigate said feelings.

With that dilemma at hand, this album arrives as a game changer. Your songs serve as a musical breath of fresh air for black brothers, allowing us to recognize the experiences we have gone through, and helping us to exhale and free ourselves from our own bondage.

Unashamed, the first track, “Unfair,” opened up the love letter stating, “Hope my mistakes don’t make me less of a man.”

Too often, those words and thoughts have crossed the minds of numerous black men, including myself, who have endured internal conflicts because of the missteps we’ve made by exercising poor decision-making, not having proper guidance or giving into our own pride.

In terms of vulnerability, we black men often struggle to communicate well, which  — like you have personally admitted to — has served as the main contributor to many of our downfalls. As much as our demeanor can sometimes show the contrary, just like our black women who appreciate how Drake can get them “in their feelings” – we too are conditioned to search for that kind of love that makes us feel like we can be accepted for the imperfect person we are in an organic, unconditional manner.

Through this album, you invite others into your world, and encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone. They then walk into a space that preaches the ability to recognize emotional weakness, and work through it positively.

At the end of the album’s second song, “Loaded Gun,” you said, “Love is the reason I’m writing these songs.” I felt that.

With each song, you touch on the various elements that are associated with love – regret (“Let Her Go”), mistakes, trust (“Pretty Little Fears”), foolishness (“Sorry’), insecurity, change (“Switch”), doubt, happiness, frustration (“Disconnect”), misunderstanding and payback. At a time when so many songs by black, male rappers and artists continue to highlight the materialistic “finer things in life,” it’s comforting to see a brother from East Atlanta’s Zone 6 stray from the typical stereotype associated with Atlanta artists, veering toward his own calling for providing musical therapy to those in need.

Because of your background as a black man, East Atlanta Love Letter  tells our black men it’s OK to open up about the situations many of us don’t want to revisit. From your own pain and passion, you penned poignant pieces that propel us to acknowledge the personal problems we’ve had, as we struggle to push away our self-destructive pride.

The album lives as a personal account of a man who chooses to find triumph over the emotive turmoil he has faced. Even more, as an artist, you bask in living out a purpose dedicated to motivating our black women and men to never give up on love, because it’s the greatest feeling you could share with another person.

In order to love better, you guide us along a path to recognizing that we must do better in how we express our wrongs, search for resolutions, and open our hearts to those who we deem worthy of getting close to it. As a black man, I appreciate you for taking the road less traveled – the journey that many are unwilling to publicize, because they lack the confidence to be transparent in their feelings.

If there’s anything that I hope my fellow black men can learn from your musical stance on love and expression, it’s that society’s implied depiction of masculinity — a strong man who doesn’t need to openly express his sincere emotions — doesn’t have to ring true for you. We should acknowledge that learning how to better convey our feelings and need for moments of being emotionally vulnerable can help us be the best version of ourselves that we need to be for us, those who choose to love us and those we choose to love.

Signed,

A Black Man and 6LACK Fan

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The people call him Wally. He's a huge fan of This Is Us and The Walking Dead. He loves a good Jamaican beef patty with a soda on the side. In his 9-5, he's a fundraiser for a private school in Atlanta. In his 5-9, he's writing your next best read. Follow him, @kywally on instagram and twitter.