Updated: Aug 20, 2020
"Pretty Little Fears": 6LACK ft. J. Cole
Album: East Atlanta Love Letter
Often critiqued for his “self-important quagmire” (Pitchfork) that centers on his failed relationships, 6LACK’s effort on Pretty Little Fears is largely no different, with fairly callous lines about his overlarge genitalia hovering over monochrome production.
That is, with the exception of the song’s intriguingly inconspicuous pre-chorus. Heard three times in the track, the lines change with each utterance. The first two are sung by 6LACK – “Girl you want my best side mm/Bet she from the west side mm” – “Girl you on my best side/Say she from the west side” – and the third by J. Cole – “Say she from the west side/And she seen my best side”. Using the East/West analogy to explain the narrator and his muse’s basic differences, Cole’s third verse explores his past transgressions and breakdowns in trust by employing an innocent intimacy that focuses on vulnerability, going beyond the innuendo-heavy euphemisms of 6LACK’s introduction.
Whereas 6LACK’s best side seems to be his sexual prowess, Cole’s value is the “light she sees” in him. In other words, throughout the song, she wants [their] best side (6LACK’s organs), has seen [their] best side (Cole’s light), and becomes [their] best side, by being the light inside them, by recognizing their purer potential.
6LACK’s smooth tone, flow, use of melody and humorlessly sexual lyrics make his music endlessly listenable, but Cole’s feature propels the track from moody mediocrity to surprising subtlety. In a year where Cole has displayed his versatility with very good features ('a lot' - 'Boblo Boat'), forgettable ones ('Zendaya' - 'Come Through and Chill'), and quite boring guest verses ('Off Deez' - 'Tribe'), Pretty Little Fears sits comfortably in the former camp.