Engaging with one’s audience is a golden rule of marketing — and R&B star 6lack is doing that in droves with his new EP 6pc Hot, which drops on Friday and aims to promote open dialogue around race and community. The album is coming with an eclectic all-out marketing campaign featuring partnerships with black-owned businesses, as well as hot sauce, limited-edition wings, and a virtual restaurant experience.
“I just followed the emotions of quarantine,” 6lack tells Rolling Stone of the album itself, an enticingly woozy hybrid of rap and R&B. “I have songs that talk about how I can’t wait to go outside again — songs that remind you of being out on the late night. We just tried to pinpoint specific feelings that everybody was feeling. I had my ups and my downs. I didn’t know what I was doing some days. Sometimes, I was just scrolling on Twitter too much. So, I just wanted to have more outlets and different little things for people to do.”
After the police killing of George Floyd shook the world, 6lack felt it’d be insensitive to put out his music on its own. So he set out crafting a marketing campaign that could offer emotion, distraction, and useful resources all in one, with help from label and management services company LoveRenaissance (LVRN), record label Interscope, and FYI Brand Group. “When we first put out the idea for the EP, everybody immediately started spitting out the wildest things they could think of,” he says. He’s always loved hot wings — so the custom hot sauce was born. Then, “Sean [Famoso McNichol], Tunde [Balogun], Carlon [Ramong], and Junia [Abaidoo] just all started spitting out ideas until we landed on the interactive store. It’s always dope to have different ideas and different opinions in the room — some that you agree with, some that you don’t — but we usually figure it out” — a particularly appealing sentiment given the divisive state of the world.
“When we’re on the Internet, that’s without filter, and we get so much of that coming through,” 6lack says. “When it’s coming through the same kind of way all day, you need something different.” To that end, here’s everything the all-out campaign involves:
A hub for all things 6lack and black
The artist is launching a 6lackbox.com, a website offering both an array of 6lack content — including previews of unreleased music from his upcoming third studio album, exclusive merch, and videos — and a resource center for social activists that has info on voter registration, a black business contact sheet, and a black history reading list. A rep tells Rolling Stone that the goal is to make the platform an “ever-evolving source for all things 6lack and black.” (Though it’s not the main purpose, supporting activism is a good marketing play, as well: Market research shows that millennial consumers are more willing to support brands that give back to the community or align with a cause.)
Robots and sauce coming in hot
In tandem with the album drop, 6lack is unveiling a hot sauce brand called 600 Degrees — and fans in Los Angeles are eligible to receive the hot sauce via robot. Starting June 29th,, L.A.-based fans can reserve a delivery window through a folder on the 6lackbox website. If approved, 6lack’s team will prompt a self-driving machine — created by robotics company Cyan — to appear at one’s front door with an exclusive bottle of the sauce prior to its wide release.
The human-less delivery may provide some relief for those nervous about accepting deliveries during COVID. “It’s fun and it’s timely,” 6lack says. “We’ve been trying to practice social distancing, so we didn’t want more people pulling up to people’s houses.”
Postmates and Amazon supporting the cause
From Thursday through the weekend, Postmates will give Atlanta-based users the option to order a special “6lack wing” from local, black-owned restaurant Goodfellas. And of course, deliveries will come with a bottle of 600 Degrees.
And next week, Amazon will introduce preloaded Amazon “6lackcards” — gift cards for up-and-coming black entrepreneurs, who submit their ideas and business plans to 6lackbox. They’ll be able to use the cards for equipment and supplies on creative projects.
“Coming from the area that I come from — and knowing that things were a lot different a long time ago, and seeing how much things can change — entrepreneurship is something that I try to teach to the people around me too,” 6lack says. “So that they can branch off, do their own things, and have their own ideas. I know that, when it was me back at my old engineer’s house, it was just having the computer and the microphone that literally propelled everything else.”
Making the fan experience feel like winning the lottery
An augmented reality version of 6lack’s beloved hot wings shop went live on Thursday afternoon as an Instagram filter, which transforms users’ surroundings and plays a snippet of the artist’s new track “Know My Rights.” The track itself wouldn’t drop until midnight on Thursday.
A week ago, 6lack also added a folder to 6lackbox that detailed a potential surprise awaiting fans who provide mailing addresses — and it caught the attention of more than 25,000 people in less than an hour. Participants were sent a 6lack-branded scratch-and-win ticket that revealed the EP’s track list, release date, and an opportunity to be selected to win physical prizes.
“That goes back to just being in the neighborhood, walking around, riding bikes, going to the gas station — and you always see scratch-offs,” he explains. “But as a kid, it just felt like too grown up of a thing to do. It was nostalgic, and I thought it would be dope to give people something physical right now. Everything else is pretty much digital.”
A love for the number six
The EP, with its release on the 26th and title 6pc Hot, is — you guessed it — six tracks long. Its creator, who hails from Atlanta’s Zone 6 neighborhood and says his “life number” is six, named the album after his favorite item at his favorite wing spot, which is also featured as cover art. (Unrelated to the album, 6lack also named his daughter Syx a few years back.)
The reoccurring sixes represent more than a wayward love. “Having a brand was one of the first things I figured out when I went through an old label situation and ended up back on my own,” 6lack says. “From there, it was just about realizing that people were either watching and paying attention to everything I did and said or figuring out if they wanted to pay attention to something else. Since the beginning, I was trying to figure out how to be myself in the best way I can and create a product that was digestible for everybody.”