Before he opens for The Weeknd, Atlanta's 6LACK -- our Chartbreaker for the month of April -- completes a long journey onto the charts.
Battle-rapping helped him confront his shyness.
The 24-year-old hip-hop artist (born Ricardo Valentine), whose bleary breakup track "Prblms" reaches a new peak at No. 88 on the April 29 Billboard Hot 100, was an introverted child, preferring to draw cartoon characters and write rhymes in his notepad instead of make friends. But in middle school, his peers started challenging him to read his rhymes aloud. "When you're at the lunch table and 15 people go, 'So-and-so outside wants to rap,' you don't have time to think," he says. Eventually he felt confident enough to pursue music, and even battle-rapped a pre-fame Young Thug at a video shoot in 2010.
He's obsessed with numerology.
The Atlanta native points out that he was born in the sixth month in the city's Zone 6, also home to Gucci Mane, Future and Childish Gambino. The number is so important to 6LACK (pronounced "black") that he named his first child, a daughter born in February, Syx. "I never had to think of a name," he says. "A boy or a girl, it was going to be Syx."
He didn't believe that he cracked the Hot 100.
6LACK had signed to an indie label, struggled to release music, gained a SoundCloud following and inked a new deal with LVRN/Interscope when "Prblms" debuted at No. 95 on the Hot 100 in March. "I had to check for myself online -- I kept hitting refresh, and it was still there!" he says. "As much as I love the art form, I'm also a competitor. Making the chart is a milestone people are always trying for."
He relates to wild animals.
Along with prepping for his stint on The Weeknd's spring tour, 6LACK is already recording the follow-up to his 2016 debut, Free 6LACK, which featured the rapper sitting next to a live grizzly bear on its cover. "There was never a moment when it was scary," he says of the six-hour photo shoot with a 700-pound bear named Bam Bam. "Bears can be a force, but they just want their space. We had a lot of the same qualities."
This article originally appeared in the April 29 issue of Billboard.