6lack Breaks Down the "Personal" J. Cole Collaboration on 'East Atlanta Love Letter'

6lack Breaks Down the 'Personal' J. Cole Collaboration on 'East Atlanta Love Letter'
Photo: Natalie O'Moore
In the spheres of hip-hop and R&B, one of the surest indicators of an artist's successful debut are the quality and quantity of featured guests on the vocalist's second go-round.
It should come as little surprise that after 6lack turned heads and raked a gold plaque, plus a Grammy nomination, for his cameo-free 2016 debut, Free 6lack, the singer's followup boasts a handful of star-studded duets.
Marquee names like Future, J. Cole, Khalid, Ty Dolla $ign, Young Thug and Offset (from Migos) all add flavour to 6lack's searing sophomore project, East Atlanta Love Letter, which dropped September 14.
"I never went out to seek features," 6lack tells Exclaim! "It's more that I just met people. I don't necessarily like when people are like, 'Hey, nice to meet you. We should collab.' I don't do that to them."
True to the album's title, the majority of 6lack's team-ups involve fellow hometown ATL stars, the notable exception being the North Carolina–bred J. Cole.
6lack explains that he met the MC through mutual friend J.I.D, who is signed to Cole's Dreamville Records. (Aside: 6lack predicts J.I.D will blow up soon: "For sure. He's literally one of the best rappers I know.")
Upon learning that Cole was a fan of Free 6lack, 6lack was happy to chill in the studio with Cole on a number of occasions, just listening to music and having long talks about beats, rhymes and life.
A bond had to be established before the two recorded "Pretty Little Fears," an encouragement for us all to speak our minds, to be honest — to stop sugar-coating communication in your close relationships.
"'Pretty Little Fears' is like a very playful and light way of saying, 'Say anything,'" 6lack says.
"I can't speak for Cole, but I will say, to me, his verse is a personal verse. He's talking about something in his life that he might not have touched on his album or his other songs. It's a personal verse, and I was lucky to get him to put such a great verse on my project."
East Atlanta Love Letter is out now on LoveRenaissance/Interscope.