2020 hasn’t gifted much to the ear. Coming off a year in which Tyler the Creator’s, albeit solid, victory lap album, “Igor,” won the Grammy for best rap album, it seems as though inspiration is scarce among our favorite musicians. Kanye is off the deep end, Lil Uzi’s ego didn’t do him any favors on “Eternal Atake” and the Weeknd couldn’t help but sing in the same pitch for an entire album on “After Hours.” Among all this mediocrity from generally talented artists, we must truly consider our freshman class this year.
It is a shame that we have largely overlooked one of 2020’s most prolific artists, whose debut studio album, “Modus Vivendi,” is the freshest hip hop/R&B mix since “Blonde.” You might recognize her swinging vocals from Kanye West’s “Ghost Town” and “Yikes,” or from Pusha T’s “Daytona.” Stealing Kanye’s show on his album “Ye” is no simple task, but her contributions are surely the highlight.
So, to whom am I referring? And is it truly possible that you haven’t heard about someone this good? I’m talking about 070 Shake, and yes, it’s possible. Here’s why: Danielle Balbuena, better known as 070 Shake, is a New Jersey native whose unique sound can be described as “transitional,” but who has received little attention. One listen and you’ll be scratching your head for comparisons. Is it Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Frank Ocean? I don’t know, and neither will you. It’s new, but we need new. Almost everyone in hip hop has sounded like Lil Uzi or Post Malone for the last two years anyway.
Mike Dean — the man behind musicians like Travis Scott, Kanye West, Young Thug and Big Sean — produced much of “Modus Vivendi.” He blends 070 Shake’s unique sound with his signature synths while maintaining a clear direction throughout the album.
It’s quite confusing to hop into the album from the first track, so I suggest starting with the more appealing “Guilty Conscience” to get a feel of how 070 Shake expresses herself through the album. This track even caught the attention of Tame Impala and resulted in his own take on the song in a remix. Next, listen to the fleetingly cosmic “Flight319” and the mysteriously sci-fi “Terminal B.” I find “Divorce” to be the most moving on the album, but only because I didn’t listen to it first. 070 Shake establishes her own sound in her expressive debut. “Modus Vivendi” can only be appropriately described as a breath of fresh air.