When 24-year-old Atlanta artist 6LACK released "PRBLMS" on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show in May, the song quickly became a hit. It racked up hundreds of thousands of streams on SoundCloud causing many to question who the crooner was. With honest lyrics and hypnotizing melodies coupled with his mysterious nature, 6LACK had the industry's attention. But the road to success was a rough journey.

He left Valdosta State University and signed a record deal in 2011. However, things didn't go as planned. “They wanted me to just be a hit song and I wanted to show them I was more than that," he wrote in an open letter on his website. For three years, he would release music sporadically on SoundCloud — most of the songs you can't find now because they've been scrubbed from the web.

He would eventually leave the label and link up with LoveRenaissance (LVRN), the same team that helped propel former XXL Freshman Raury into the spotlight. Now that he's free, 6LACK has a newfound drive and he's not looking back.

Earlier this month, he released his debut project, FREE 6LACK. The album title speaks for itself. Freedom is very important to 6LACK's creativity.

"Being stuck in a situation you don’t really want to be in can detour you and throw you off course and you can’t do what you’re supposed to do," he tells XXL while in New York. "For me being able to step aside and break free from that was kind of like a reminder. It was a kick for me to get back on my shit. The minute I even saw the chance of being free from my old [situation] I went into overdrive."

With momentum on his side, get to know 6LACK.

Name: 6LACK

Age: 24

Hometown: Atlanta

I grew up listening to: 
“Initially a lot of early R&B, whatever my mom was listening to, so a lot of Brandy, SWV, stuff like that. [I realized I could sing] very recently, maybe like 2011. I started to think, 'Maybe I can hold a note' and then I got more into it because I thought vocals were interesting. As I kid I would sing in secrecy but I never thought nothing of it. As I started working on music I think I tiptoed into it.

"I recorded my first rap when I was three, 4 years old. My dad made music. He was recording something and I think someone wrote me a line or I just went in there an said a line. It was at the beginning of his song. My dad rapped.

"I stuck with rap all the way through elementary school, freestyle battlin’. That was kind of like the core of what I started with. From elementary school to middle school to high school I was battle rapping. Then battle rap started to deplete and I was like, I need to figure out how to survive in this game, let me figure out how to make songs. So I took what I learned from battle rap and just applied it to making music. I started recording music later on in high school. Everybody had the studio closet and record at his or her crib. I got in the studio around 2010. Making music has always been a thing for me."

Most people don’t know: “I’m just not an out there, in-your-face kind of person. That’s kind of like the opposite of what being a rapper or performer is [laughs]. I started off drawing before I was fully dedicated to the music too.

My style’s been compared to: “I describe [my sound] as whatever I feel. Obviously it has it roots in hip-hop and R&B. I listen to a little bit of everything and pull from everything that I listen to but it’s honestly what I’m feeling at that time. Wherever I am in my life or whatever I feel like giving.

"I [get compared] to everything; I heard I sound like nobody and I heard I sound like this, this and this. I don’t really care."

My standout records or moments to date have been: “Biggest moment is finding out I was becoming a dad and my biggest song is obviously 'PRBLMS.' I recorded it in the kitchen. I was recording in my kitchen for like a year. I made like 200 songs, 200 ideas at least. 'PRBLMS' was towards the latter end. After I got everything out, I finally started honing in on the sound and figuring out where I want the project to go. 'PRBLMS' was the first time…I pride myself with not dealing with crazy shit as far as relationships went. That was the first time I bit off more than I could chew.

"I was like, 'Oh shit, I actually can’t deal with this shit.' Even with releasing the song I was iffy about it. People know me as a positive person but that was the opposite. That’s what I was at the time. That’s why it worked so well, it was a direct reflection of what I felt. That day in the kitchen I think [my friends] were going to an event or something and asked if I was coming. I said, 'Nah, I got something going on I’m trying to get these words out' and it just came, line for line."

My goal in hip-hop is to: "Just to help, I want people to listen and take something from [my music]. Whether it’s relationships, whether they’re at home, whether they’re with friends, whatever the case may be, I just want to deliver some kind of message to the people who listen."

I’m gonna be the next: “I wouldn’t want anyone to attach some kind of name towards what I would be. I would want then to look at me like, I see that you’re here for something and you can be something great. What you’re going to be that is specifically for you. Basically the space that you’re about to fill is your space and nobody else."

Follow 6LACK on Twitter and SoundCloud.

Standout: FREE 6LACK


"Just in Time 4 the Weekend"

See 20 of Your Favorite Rappers Naming Their Favorite Rappers