070 Shake thrives in shadows. The boundaryless New Jersey artist crafts uniquely nocturnal songs, full of the frayed emotions that crop up during late nights spent alone with your thoughts. Since signing to GOOD Music in 2016, she’s appeared on hooks for veteran rappers like Kanye West, Nas, and Pusha T, bringing her piercing lyrics and sentimental vocals to powerful rap songs. And across her solo efforts, she’s demonstrated poise and vulnerability, as well as a dedication to going to uncomfortable places, writing moving songs about romantic entanglements and infidelity. Her forthcoming sophomore album, You Can’t Kill Me, is an extension of her previous works’ interrogation of humanity. The album aims to further expose her innermost feelings, to explore complicated interpersonal connections, to dig deep.
You Can’t Kill Me is a manifesto about emotional investment, codependency, and withdrawal. In a 2021 tweet, Shake teased the project’s premise: “Don’t wanna depend on anything I’ll one day have to detach from.” The 24-year-old views everything as temporary. The physical perishes and, eventually, even darkness fades. “We’re so attached to this physical world, it makes us more susceptible to being hurt,” she says. “You can’t kill me because I’m more than my body.” In some ways, its new territory for her—on the record, over an always shifting tapestry of sound, she offers full transparency, demonstrating a delicate balance of sensitivity and strength.
After spending two and a half years recording over 100 songs, Shake pieced together 14 tracks that show her definition of soul, a set of songs that meditates on the trials and tribulations of love, of both the joy and despair she’s found trying to forge lasting bonds with other people. Tracks like the slowly unfurling “Skin and Bones” mull on the weight of the past, and describe a heartwarming loyalty. The synth-drenched “Stay” is a desperate plea for reconciliation with someone who isn’t treating her right. “Vibrations” is a surreal, spaced out song about the her long search for fulfillment. Like the music that came before it, the LP aches for peace of mind. “Medicine,” one of the first songs Shake recorded for You Can’t Kill Me, details a codependent relationship over a darkly burbling soundscape punctuated by guitar and piano. “You were low and I was your medicine,” she sings in a snarl. The heavy track is part of what holds the album together, but it’s also powered by the solitude that’s shaped her life since she was a kid.
Born Danielle Balbuena, Shake grew up in North Bergen, New Jersey—though she also spent stints in the Dominican Republic, where her mother was from, and Colorado. As a kid, she was diagnosed with ADHD and spent most of her childhood in isolation, which was enforced by authority figures who were trying to help her. She learned quickly that she could turn to poetry as a way to cope with her most difficult emotions. She felt lonely, but she realized she was able to transform that feeling into moving songs. In 2015, she released “Proud,” a woozy soundtrack detailing her years as a misfit, along with another moving single called “Swervin.” Soon, the dreamy “Sunday Night” caught the attention of Ye, who signed her to GOOD Music shortly after.
In 2018, she released Glitter, a six-track EP, about pulling herself up from rock bottom. After appearing on the brooding outro of Kanye West’s “Ghost Town” alongside PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kid Cudi, Shake was the newcomer everyone, including Beyoncé (who invited her to be a part of the Lion King: The Gift soundtrack), wanted to collaborate with—and she did it all in three years. In 2020, she released the Dave Hamelin-produced Modus Vivendi, her debut album, that put her voice—and pensive perspective—into focus. Titled for the Latin translation for “way of life,” Shake contemplates her karma on “Guilty Conscience,” a standout single about infidelity, which was eventually given a colorful remix by Tame Impala, one of the group’s only remixes in recent history. Most recently, Madonna tapped Shake for an ecstatic rendition of her 1998 hit “Frozen.” The Queen of Pop called the “indescribably mysterious and alluring” star her favorite artist. Despite her growing roster of A-list collaborations, Shake still does some of her best work on her own, when she has time and space to dig into what matters most to her.
You Can’t Kill Me is the result of a lot of effort spent figuring out what part of herself she wants to share with the world next. “With each album, it’s like you’re being revealed more and more,” she says. “You Can’t Kill Me shows how dedicated I am to being free within music.” That liberation, however, is not concocted haphazardly. Shake says to maintain a song’s original integrity, she doesn’t even encourage her engineers to bop their heads to the music—a tough feat for a project with a production that pulses like it has its own heartbeat. “Since we’re making it,” she says. “We shouldn’t be the ones having fun to it.”
Shake’s greatest strength remains the emotional depths she explores in her songs. On tracks that overwhelm the senses like “Blue Velvet,” she uses the fabric of a woman’s dress to recall the night they met, and “Purple Walls,” places the listener in the bedroom where she fell in love. “Body,” a seductive standout featuring Christine and the Queens, evokes a primal desire. The song finds two people submitting to their physical attraction, only to realize relationships are never quite that simple. “I wanted your body, but it came with your soul,” Shake sings. Inspired by a song from her childhood in the Dominican Republic, “Se Fue la Luz,” which translates to “the light is gone,” is a heavy-hearted farewell to the relationship she spent contemplating on the album. She comes to the realization that detachment may be necessary, even if it isn’t easy.
On the whole, this new era shows that Shake still possesses the same sensitive spirit from her auspicious debut a few years ago. As time has passed, she’s learned to explore more than just darkness, to make songs that fully delve into the colorful contours of her imagination and capture the honesty she’s been reaching for since the beginning. “I don’t want to overthink,” she says. “Feeling is the biggest ingredient of my music.” You Can’t Kill Me is built with that in mind, a rich openness that peers deep into 070 Shake’s soul—and spills it out into the world