ALL HAIL 070 SHAKE
Since 070 Shake was interviewed last September for the 032c Issue #42, her career has launched skyhigh. In October, she was featured on Raye’s viral megahit “Escapism,” which charted internationally, reaching number one in the UK, and afforded Shake her first appearance on the US Billboard Hot 100. To mark the occassion of 070 Shake's feature making it on the web, we've launched a poster, available here.
All Clothing and Accessories by Loewe
It's difficult to distinguish between weed smoke and post-pyrotechnic fog in the bowels of Barclays Center. A sold-out crowd of 18,000 are shrouded in the hazy mist of this curious concoction. Among the various light sources that pierce through the fumes are sporadic cell phone flashlights from the upper decks, dizzying LEDs shining upward from the foot of the platform, and a swaying legion of bright screens recording shaky Instagram stories. There are also three larger-than-life beams fixed from above on the wiry, leather-clad silhouette of 070 Shake. The first song of her set has just come to an end, and the spotlights illuminating her 5'5 frame are the only visible light source on the stage as she retreats towards the curtains and takes a long swig from a bottle of wine.
Shake is an introvert at heart. A few hours ago at a homely vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, she broke the dynamic down between languid forkfuls of Caesar salad and mozzarella sticks. “Yeah, but I can have my extroverted moments, too," she said through a steely gaze, mulling over whether she considered herself to be withdrawn. With a reserved chuckle, she jumped to modify her statement. "Really, I have to be drunk to get there, though, so I don't know if it's true."
Shake had emerged from a hulking black truck a few minutes past noon, flanked by close associates – Bharata Selassie (aka 070 Cine), a school-friend-turned-collaborator from New Jersey, and Sean Solymar, a producer who helped her navigate the Wyoming studio sessions responsible for “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes.” Hailing from North Bergen, a township in the upper region of New Jersey, she’s known for curating tripped-out sonic experiences that feel one-third music, one-third existential crisis, and one-third hip-hop-infused Dark Side of the Moon. “There are so many worlds in this one world,” she mused at one point. “Sometimes I feel like I’m definitely all over the place, but sometimes I feel the opposite.” She was largely introduced to international audiences in 2018, when, by virtue of the Wyoming studio sessions she navigated alongside Solymar, she made stirring contributions to albums by Pusha T and Ye. But despite the trappings of superstardom, she's intent on keeping her company small. Only three people were traveling with her on tour, and two of them were sitting next to her in the restaurant booth.
Shake’s moniker comes from her knack to “shake” opponents on the basketball court. Tonight, however, on the stomping grounds of the Brooklyn Nets, she is not in hooping garb. Swaddled in a sleek leather coat with two white collars peeking through, she is at Barclays to open for Kid Cudi in the New York stop of his “To the Moon” tour. When she introduces herself at Barclays, she lurches into a barrage of searing selections, bass thundering through a set of gargantuan line-array speakers hanging from the ceiling. One of the first selections is “Microdosing,” an angst-ridden deep cut from her 2018 debut LP Modus Vivendi. Shake’s piercing monotone is permeating sonic haze the same way the crowd’s flashlights perfuse the smog. “I don’t wanna be your everything. ‘Cause I don’t wanna leave you with nothing,” she croons as images of reddening eyeballs flash at rapid pace on a screen behind her. “I was just microdosing you.”
Shake’s beginnings are perhaps peculiar. After finishing high school with zero doubt that she’d pursue education no further, she started making music at 19, with studio sessions financed by paychecks earned hosting kids’ birthday parties at the local branch of Pump It Up, an indoor playground franchise in the tri-state area. A core facet of the Pump It Up birthday party is the post-festivity “pizza room” shindig. At these sloppy free-for-alls — between cleaning up messes and caring for gap-toothed revelers — she often played some of her work-in-progress music on aux. “My coworkers were like ‘Oh, this is you? That's crazy, this is actually good.’,” she said. “Then my manager overheard me playing my music, and was like, ‘I'm gonna let you go. You gotta focus on your music.’ He fired me, so that I could focus on music.”
Shake was undeterred: “What gave me this drive was that this is all I got; this is all I have,” she said at the restaurant. “If it’s not this, there’s nothing. I would have probably killed myself if it wasn’t for music.”
Newly jobless, and with very reason to pursue her craft, she delved head-first into North Bergen’s hip-hop infrastructure, wielding the few connections she already had to piece together sporadic studio sessions and collaborations. Looking for someone to help her brave the new sonic world, she hit up Phi, now 070 Phi, in hopes that they could work together. The connection led Shake to the doors of Star Cloud Studios, the Union City hip-hop hotbed that would go on to house the early makings of the 070 collective — named for the first three digits of most New Jersey zip codes — which she now belongs to. The group was composed of recurring characters who frequented Star Cloud, and they went on to release an LP, The 070 Project: Chapter 1, in 2016. (As of today, 070 functions as a loose conglomerate of connected creatives and managers. “We’re not together as much,” Shake admitted. “We live in different places and stuff, but it’s all love.”)
Shake’s management had so far been handled by YesJulz, a prominent Miami internet personality who jumped to take her under her wing after hearing her early single “Proud.” In 2016, Julz played some of Shake’s music at a Yeezy fitting, where it caught the attention of Pusha T, then-president of Ye’s GOOD Music label. Shake signed with GOOD Music shortly thereafter. Then, two years later, she found herself among her heroes in Wyoming, where she made stirring appearances in the label’s slew of summer releases — first on the riveting “Santeria” from Pusha T’s Daytona, then on “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes” on Ye’s ye. “To this day, it’s honestly one of my best experiences,” Solymar said. “Just the environment itself is beautiful. But also, you just wake up every day, walk outside, go to the studio while being in this beautiful mountainous landscape. There was no set schedule, but everybody really wanted to work. Everybody was there to work.” The dynamic echoes Shake’s approach to not only working, but living. She prefers a small crowd of people with similar goals over a directionless entourage.
The most recent glimpse audiences have gotten into Shake’s world is You Can’t Kill Me (2022), a cathartic sophomore LP that balances transcendental soundscapes with down-to-earth soul-searching. The conceptual crux of the project is, perhaps, best outlined by an abandoned portion of its title: You Can’t Kill Me, the originally-planned name was supposed to read, If I Don’t Exist. The dichotomy between presence and absence is a core facet of her mythos. Shake is one of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. But she also doesn’t exist. She hides where others would insist on shining.
For Shake, music is a spiritual experience. At Barclays, she wants us to breathe together so that we can appreciate the moment we’re sharing. “There’s not many times I get to be in front of all these people,” she says on-stage, somewhat out of breath. “I want to take one breath with you guys and channel God real quick. So, on three, in through our noses and out through our mouths, let’s breathe in together, alright?” She pauses to take a scan of the crowd, and in the brief absence of her echoing voice, light chatter begins to rise from the stands. “You’re not too cool to breathe, I promise you. We all do that shit.
“Alright, here we go. One… Two… Three.”
All of Barclays Center is silent for a brief second, until the moment is tarnished by the comical yells of a pubescent voice. Shake lets off a steady laugh. Her toothy grin is piercing through the plumes of weed smoke and post-pyrotechnic fog. “Y’all childish.”