New Jersey-based rapper and singer 070 Shake proves her star power on her debut album “Modus Vivendi” released Jan. 17. By combining her dynamic singing voice with powerful lyrics about relationship and personal struggles, Shake defines herself with a soothing musical voice in the current hip-hop environment.
After signing with Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint in 2016, 070 Shake first reached the commercial mainstream through her collaborations with West in 2018 on his album “ye.” On tracks like “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes,” Shake’s melodic and atmospheric vocal inflections made her contributions take an ominous tone on the album about West’s mental health and struggles with bipolar disorder. She quickly became one of alternative hip-hop’s brightest newcomers and has since continued to improve her music and further mystify her public persona.
Shake’s debut album is one of her first long-form music releases. Apart from brief features on GOOD Music projects and a short EP in 2018, Shake’s entire music discography was very sparse. “Modus Vivendi” expands on the limited notes from her previous releases to create a cogent musical identity for the album.
The album opens on an atmospheric and orchestral note on “Don’t Break the Silence.” Though the track serves purely as a mood setter, it introduces Shake’s ability to rap powerful and emotion-filled lines and sing wrought vocal inflections that pattern the rest of the duration of the album.
The first half of the album, featuring tracks like “Morrow,” “The Pines” and “Guilty Conscience,” is easily the strongest part of the album. Shake distinguishes herself with her impeccable ability to craft incredibly catchy hooks over hip-hop-laced instrumentals, creating an engaging and hypnotizing listening experience.
“Guilty Conscience,” in particular, is the clear standout track from the album. One of the album’s lead singles, the track revolves around Shake discovering her significant other cheating on her, leaving her with a guilty conscience because she was also cheating on them. This track marks a key point for Shake, as it merges her ability to tell compelling stories with building her musical identity, something newer artists can struggle with while finding their voice.
Shake also shines on “Microdosing.” The track sees Shake compare her relationship and falling in love with one person to microdosing drugs, a problem that can ultimately lead her into losing control of her life. The song’s message is powerful and the constant repetition of “microdosing” in the hook enhances the emotional impact of the album.
070 Shake takes many positive notes from her GOOD Music contemporaries. Although none of the other artists on the label feature on the album, label producer Mike Dean had a significant hand in the sound of the track list. The production is also anchored by contributions from Chance the Rapper collaborator Francis and the Lights and Dave Hamelin, who has most recently worked with Leikeli47. These production choices create and enhance the hazy vibe of the entire LP.
Another important facet of Shake’s musical identity is her sexual orientation. Shake, who does not label herself as queer or gay and simply states that she likes girls, refers to all of her significant others using female pronouns. With these viewpoints continuing to become increasingly prominent in hip-hop, with artists like Tyler, the Creator, Young M.A and Kevin Abstract using their sexual orientations across their music, 070 Shake’s identity plays into much of the relationship narrative throughout the album.
However, the album is not perfect. The album itself has only one feature: 1970s soul group The Ebonys on a brief 17-second interlude. This lack of variation in the track listing becomes painfully clear as the album goes on. While Shake utilizes her debut album to allow her own voice to shine, the latter half of the album quickly begins to blend together as a moody collection of sung hip-hop tracks. While this does not necessarily hamstring it, this constant repetition of sounds limits Shake’s true ability to shine.
Nevertheless, few debut albums serve to affirm someone’s star status as easily as “Modus Vivendi” does for 070 Shake. The hazy and atmospheric environment of the instrumentals is only further enhanced by Shake’s own powerful vocals that ultimately make the album an incredibly compelling listen. “Modus Vivendi” allows Shake to rise out of the shadow of the GOOD Music imprint and establish herself as a star in her own right.