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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

arts music review

COLUMN: 070 Shake’s ‘You Can’t Kill Me’ is an original hip-hop experiment


070 Shake – aka 24-year-old, New Jersey-based rapper Danielle Balbuena – was warmly welcomed into hip-hop after being featured on Kanye West’s 2018 album “Ye,” delivering chilling vocals on “Ghost Town,” the album’s closing track. 

In 2016, 070 Shake debuted her successful single “Honey,” just two years before her 2018 EP “Glitter.” “Modus Vivendi,” 070 Shake’s 2020 debut album established her vivid electronic sound and introduced the popular singles “Morrow” and “Guilty Conscience,” which was later remixed by Tame Impala. 

If “Modus Vivendi” introduced 070 Shake’s sound, her latest album “You Can’t Kill Me” refines it. The hypnotic album drips with synthetic beats coupled with 070 Shake’s autotuned, intimate vocals.

Each of the 14 tracks is unexpected – the rapper refuses to conform to traditional song structure, and rather allows each song to evolve throughout, blurring and blending sounds that leave listeners unsure of what could come next. 070 Shake creates an experimental fusion of futuristic electronic music and raw, emotive hip-hop. 

The sixth track, “Blue Velvet,” is a perfect example of this blending. After the sound of a heartbeat, 070 Shake chants harmonic, entrancing vocals about her lover’s unforgettable blue dress. Throughout the track, she melds sounds of hand drums, tambourine, piano and trumpet with synthy, laser-like trilling. 

Another experimental track, “Vibrations,” begins with echoed laughter and the distorted, repeated line “I see it” – an unsettling intro to what is otherwise an upbeat hip-hop track. On “Body,” which features Christine and the Queens as the only featured artist on the album, 070 Shake raps about sex over an addictive beat, followed by a startling, shrill synth outro. 

The album combines romantic imagery with lyrics about troubled and broken relationships, revealing an intense examination of 070 Shake’s feeling and talent. 

Released in April as a single, “Skin and Bones” is a standout on the album and is reminiscent of 070 Shake’s previous work. The rapper croons about a fragile yet enduring love throughout the romantic track. To close out the pop track, 070 shake combines techno sounds with the heavily, artfully autotuned lyrics, “Maybe next life you’ll be mine again.”

“Medicine,” a futuristic-sounding, synth-pop track, employs raspy, autotuned vocals over harsh lyrics about a codependent relationship, adding a palpable darkness to the album. She repeats “You were low and sick, babe, I was your medicine / I’m your oxygen / But I’m cutting off your supply.” The synth layered on top of a cold piano chorus is solemn as the rapper recounts the end of a toxic relationship. 

Another intimate track, “Purple Walls,” details the timeline of a doomed but loving relationship. On the track, she details how the couple fell in love inside of a purple-walled bedroom. 070 Shake raps to her partner that she wishes she could freeze time because they’re being pulled apart by busy schedules and likely 070 Shake’s growing career.  

Much of the album details the stories of 070 Shake’s seemingly ill-fated relationships in the face of her stardom. A vulnerable addition to the album, “Wine and Spirits” begins with a mellow acoustic guitar, over which 070 Shake delivers haunting, gritty vocals. She repeats, “We’ll be the fault of our demise / Premeditated suicide / The media will turn us against each other.” 

070 Shake’s daring fusion of the pop, hip-hop and electronic genres delivers a fresh sound unlike many other modern musical artists. With stamps of approval by major collaborative talents like Kanye West, Tame Impala, Kehlani (070 Shake’s girlfriend) and even Madonna, it’s clear that 070 Shake will only continue to establish herself as a mainstay in today’s hip-hop and pop worlds.

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