When you think of spring music, you think of gummy synths, breezy melodies, some textured percussion to get your hips moving, and carefree lyrics to be screamed while cruising down the highway or turning up at a party. Spring is the time for budding romance and new chapters, but few “spring albums,” ever address how we got to these sunny days and fell into all of these new and erratic love affairs.
There is an album, though, that manages to be an absolute groove, that carries tremendous weight, while giving us the before and after of a love gone sour, while challenging our expectations for what qualifies as seasonal music. That record is, of course, Atlanta rapper-singer 6lack’s seminal 2016 debut studio album, Free 6lack.
Released in November of 2016, everyone’s first impulse is to label Free 6lack a winter album for its despondent commentary on love, brooding melodies, and grey overtones. While all of that is true, there’s no rule saying that Free 6lack can only thrive in a single season. The same effervescent commentaries that musicians use to showcase the power of love summoning the emotions of a short-lived spring fling, could just as easily allude to the grey overtones found in the silver linings.
For all of its stormy and chilling qualities, so much of Free 6lack alludes to a grip of pastel shades. “Free,” despite its somber nuances and vexed content, features a score of inflections and nearly-soaring notes that have 6lack sounding less like a man hurting in the dead of winter, and more like a man standing triumphantly after the ice thaws. On “Getting Old,” one of the brightest moments on the record, 6lack basks in the warm glow of a comfortable love.
“Getting Old” is sunset by the water music, sunrise on the rooftop music, marked by its sweetness but also the anxiety that comes with realizing love can grow, and inevitably, love can be lost. Free 6lack endures because of its multiplicity, its ability to move between life’s phases and slot itself into fans’ personal timelines. At his lowest, on “Worst Luck,” 6lack’s bright cadence still allows him to be accessible to his fans and allude to even a meager amount of closure.
Lyrically, then, too many of the aching moments on Free 6lack end with an allusion to hope for us to gloss over the connection to spring being the motif for rebirth. On “PRBLMS,” 6lack sings: “So I found me a new thang, I'm not as lost as you think / Got plenty queens in my hometown, all they need is drank and that dank,” as he rises up from the ashes of a failed relationship.
On “Free,” 6lack continues this motif of growth with the hook, declaring that he is freer than ever. Even on “Ex Calling,” where he becomes his “next calling,” we get the sense that 6lack has entered into a new phase of his life, a new season if you will, and from that cleansing, we get the word-for-word proof that Free 6lack is a spring album.
The larger moral of the story, though, is that music is transient and should be experienced in as many settings as possible. Push yourself and your tunes out of the ascribed comfort zone and you’ll surely get more depth out of your favorite albums. Free 6lack is a perfect spring album, it’s a perfect winter album too—one does not negate the other, but the existence of both speaks to the power this kind of music has to move us across the spectrum of emotion.