One day, I was listening to Spotify, waiting to be put on to new music. I was cleaning and instantly fell in love with the rhythm and the bass of 6lack’s “PRBLMS.” I always remembered the line: “I got real sh*t to stress about. Girl, I ain’t worried bout sh*t.” I watched the music video on Youtube and I told myself that I had to learn this song. Then I heard the album “Free 6lack.” I saw it as something that I could vibe to. I memorized the words just to be able to sing them if I ever heard the songs again, but I never sat down and listened to the story he was trying to portray. It wasn’t until I heard his song “MTFU” that I started to actually sit down and listen to what he was saying. The song talks about him having an intimate relationship with his girlfriend’s friend, thinking that they were no longer friends, when they still were. “So then I took her word, ain’t run that sh*t by you,” he sings. “I made myself believe everything was okay. Meanwhile she at your house. She smiling in your face”
When I first found out that 6lack’s tour was coming to Atlanta on Thanksgiving weekend, I knew that I had to buy a ticket. Since he was returning to his hometown, he was playing back-to-back shows. I bought a ticket for the Saturday show, but the only problem was that I didn’t have friends to go with. After thinking for awhile, I realized that I did not need someone to be with me to do something that I would enjoy. I bought the ticket, but I had never been to a concert before this.
I arrived at the Tabernacle on Saturday, November 25, 2017 exactly at 8:30 p.m. The show was at 9 p.m., and the line was around the corner. Fortunately, the line was moving quickly, and I was able to get inside 15 minutes later. I walked into the stage area, and the floor was packed. There were two very tall males in front of me, blocking my view of the stage. This was my first time at a concert, and I couldn’t even see the stage. My night was already soiled.
While the DJ was playing music to prepare for the show, someone from my school had informed me that a senior at our school was also at the concert. I eventually meet up with her, but I ruined my chances of enjoying the concert on the spiritual level that I desired. I talked most of the time and allowed someone’s presence to affect the way I vibed to the music. Sabrina Claudio was the opening act, and she was amazing. Although I had only heard one song by her, her performance made me want to learn more. When 6lack finally comes out, I can’t even see him because of three women with afros and curls standing in front of me. I spent most of the time struggling to see the stage. Therefore, my first concert did not go as planned.
Now, what if you had the chance to redeem yourself? Imagine yourself being told that you could possibly go backstage to meet 6lack, your favorite artist. You’re excited, but you’re nervous. What do you say? How do you act?
This is what I asked myself when I was offered the chance to join my fellow VOXer Mack to meet and interview 6lack the next day.
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 26, I stood outside of the Tabernacle. I wondered what I would say if I saw him; how I would react. I wondered what type of person he was outside of the studio. Would he be rude or would he be sweet and happy about teenagers taking interest in him? As I am finally led inside of the venue, I walk towards the stage that he would later be performing on. I looked at where he would be standing and imagined myself as him. I looked behind me at the large screen displaying the word “LVRN” (acronym for Love Renaissance, an Atlanta based record label with artists D.R.A.M., Raury, and 6lack). I looked out at the floor, the surrounding bars, the balcony where I would soon be seated. I imagined a crowd screaming, “6lack! 6lack! 6lack!” I wonder how it felt to be loved by so many people. I wondered how one man could handle so much stardom and fame.
I was then led to a green room backstage that housed snacks and various pictures and records of previous performers. To say that I was nervous was an understatement. I kept reminding myself that I am here on a mission: To understand this man and the background behind his sound; his lyrics. After being led into another room with chairs and couches, he joined Mack, and me.
After finally having the chance to meet him, I noticed his vibe, first. He gave off this laidback brother vibe. I no longer felt nervous to meet this famous black artist. I felt comfortable with this flawed human being. And as he began talking, I noticed how smooth his voice seemed to come off. I noticed how his voice perfectly matched the one in his music. That’s when I realized that what we have all heard and seen of 6lack was actually him. He never tried to take a story and twist it for more views. He gave it to us straight.
As I continued to listen and take pictures of the interview between him and Mack, I jotted down some key things that I heard or noticed. From the telling of his story, I realized that he was a representative of the ups and downs of living in East Atlanta. In his song “EA6”, he describes the environment saying, “I’m from East Atlanta 6, they don’t play that sh*t/In East Atlanta 6, you better make that lick.” He goes on to explain the significance of the bear present on the “Free 6lack” album cover and merchandise.
Apparently, the bear is his spirit animal and represents his strength. When he says this, I could only think about the line in his song “Alone” where he says, “Contemplating on if I’m really as strong as I thought, bitch I might be.” That’s when I finally take notice of my surroundings. The room we were in had bears of different colors painted on the walls. With me being there for the first time, I was not sure if that was intentional or a coincidence that we were talking to a man that used a black bear to represent his image inside of a room covered in bears.
What really caught my attention, however, was his reason behind cutting his hair. He said that he had the habit of hiding behind his hair. I totally support this decision because, to many, 6lack came off as mysterious and shy, but when he is on stage, he seems most comfortable. His social media marketer, Malia, described him as “a very mysterious man” and that she “learns stuff about him everyday.” 6lack seems to support this when he explains that he doesn’t like to be the center of attention, but understands that it’s the price of fame. I got the chance to notice how humble he is as he allowed his dad hat to hover over his eyes and sat comfortably in Givenchy slippers. To me, that’s a sign that he doesn’t just blow his money like every other star, but he is not depriving himself of the benefits that come with being famous, either.
My favorite part about meeting him was actually holding a conversation with him and telling him a story that included me getting upset about someone mispronouncing his name. He talked about him not having to explain his name to anyone from Atlanta, and the fact that some people just don’t register things that they are supposed to. At this moment, I forgot about being nervous to meet him. I forgot about being next to a man that made a song that went platinum, or a man that made the greatest album cover of all time in my opinion, or a man that has been nominated for two Grammys. I was next to a man that grew up in the same environment as me, but refused to be a product of that environment. Growing up in Atlanta, you realize that you only have three options: You could stay in school, try your luck and pursue music, or you could fall in line with the rest of those that chose the path of violence and drugs. I was next to a man that had seen the lows of living in Atlanta, but never stopped reaching for his high. I was next to a flawed human being, but somehow, he was perfect.
As we finished our meeting, we were directed to our seats. I couldn’t help but to think about how my view on 6lack had changed along with my view of the stage. Yesterday, I was on the ground floor struggling to see the stage and hear him. Now, here I was in the balcony, clearly watching a completely new person.
As the show went on, I observed his body language when he performed his songs. I noticed how one with the audience he was. Then, I listened to his words. I listened to the mistakes he made. I listened to his description of his upbringing. I listened to him talk about his past relationships. This man was truly human, and that is what drew me further to him.
I honestly felt like Zelda Harris on “Crooklyn” when she was high. I felt high. I just couldn’t believe that I met a man who was my biggest inspiration when it came to making it out of the slums of Atlanta. After the concert today, after hearing him talk, after getting to know him more, my outlook on the entire album had changed. I sat in my dad’s car replaying the album over and over, finally paying attention to every word. I realized how human he was; how he never tried to make himself look superior to others. Free 6lack was about the mistakes he had made in his life and how he is choosing to learn from them and get over them. I got to hear an amazing life story from that life, itself. I got to experience my very first concert in the best way possible. I got to place myself in his shoes and hear him out. 6lack said it best when referring to his music at the end of his encore performance: “ This sh*t ain’t for the radio. This sh*t is for life.”
If you are also planning on attending your first concert soon, here are some tips for attending any event by yourself:
Always bring a fully charged phone because you never know when you may need to call someone.
Always be aware of your surroundings,have your mode of transportation finalized before the event.
Never drink anything from a stranger, and never pick your cup up after putting it down.