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070 Shake Interview: Why you can’t kill Def Jam’s darling

Photos courtesy of Eddie Mandell

It’s been a few months since New Jersey’s own 070 Shake released her new studio album You Can’t Kill Me (June 3), a timeless escapade of self-discovery and realization that ultimately proved she can’t be “killed” by anyone or anything.

Her sophomore record — which arrived two and a half years after her debut Modus Vivendi — sees Shake go through a plethora of changes for the better. Along with publically bringing her relationship with R&B icon Kehlani to light — via their “melt” music video the same week as YCKM’s release — the shift in Shake’s worldview has been colossal. Instead of trying to use her music as a tool for unity as she did on MV, she now looks to find beauty in futility.

“I feel like when you’re young, you have these dreams of saving the world, or a misconception of what saving the world looks like, and you just have so much hope for stuff. This album is a representation of being let down by the world, in a way. I realized that what I had to do in order to get closer to life was detach myself, because I’m able to, to a certain extent, live without fear. We fear things because we’re attached to things, we fear losing things. That’s just life, though. You’re going to lose everything you have, everybody you’ve loved, and those people are gonna lose you one day as well. Coming from that angle, not being too attached to things, you don’t cause yourself so much pain.”

070 Shake to OGM

All throughout You Can’t Kill Me, Shake uses dissociation as a coping mechanism, mostly because the album’s inspiration comes from her five-year long relationship she had before the Kehlani romance. Her difficulty accepting the relationship’s end is evident in the album’s powerful, synth-heavy instrumentation, as well as epic sung hooks like on “Medicine”: “I’m your oxygen / But I’m cuttin’ off your supply.”

“I was in a long relationship and it was coming to an end after five years, so I think I had to write about this experience,” she said. “My music mixes my experiences and my emotions. My emotions don’t just belong to one aspect of my life. If I’m mad about one thing, I’m channeling all my anger, not just the anger about that one thing. It’s always going to feel bigger, because I’m expressing myself as a human being and all the stuff that I’m made of.”

Whether it be being “a speckle under Allah” sung on “Invited” or “having stardust in her DNA” from “History,” Shake’s intent to separate herself from her physical body gives her a sense of invincibility, hence the album’s title. She explained that this revelation about life came from studying and maturing between albums.

“I’ve grown because, outside of music, I’ve acquired more knowledge and studied more about life. I think that carries on to my music. I’ve also grown into myself more, being more of myself and learning who I am. Studying art and the people that came before me and all aspects of art, I think the more I study the better I’m going to become. It’s just gonna be an ongoing growing process.”

070 Shake to OGM

However, this continuous exercise of soaking up knowledge came to a momentary halt when she entered album mode. As she insists she does with any project she makes, she isolated herself from society while crafting YCKM, locking herself in a basement — rest assured, she promised us it was a “nice basement” — in her Los Angeles home, only eating home-cooked or delivered meals.

“I really have to mentally put myself in a space where I’m like, ‘Okay I’m about to make another album,’” she said. “I have to be locked in somewhere. I can’t just sporadically make music to put together an album, I have to be in the same place every day only making music. I won’t go outside, because I have to completely lock myself in. My mind doesn’t know what to focus on if I’m doing too many things. I need to know that I’m focusing on this one thing.”

This process helps Shake establish a fluidity in her music, making sure the vocals, lyrics, production, atmosphere, etc. are all in perfect harmony. She hopes this is clear to her fans when they listen to her music.

“I feel like people usually separate me from the production, in terms of my vocals,” she said. “I think that’s something that bothers me because I feel that I’m one with the production, it’s just music. It’s not like a singer on a beat, or a rapper on a beat, it’s all one thing. When I’m creating it I intend for it to be like that. The production can never overpower my vocals or vice versa because it’s one thing.”

070 Shake to OGM

Eclipsing 2 million Spotify listeners while steadily becoming one of the legendary Def Jam’s most prominent acts, Shake has all the tools at her disposal to make that mission possible. This arsenal of musical weapons includes producer Dave Hamelin, who has been working with her since she inked her deal with G.O.O.D. Music in 2016, as well as mixing mastermind Mike Dean, who made his mark on her long before she had music on digital streaming platforms.

“[Dave Hamelin] was able to follow my lead, because I wanted to be free in music and he wanted to be free as well. It was a perfect match,” she said. “What (Mike Dean) has done in the past with other artists has inspired my sound, specifically Ye. His sound is kinda wired in my brain now so I think it’s always something that I look for. A lot of times, people think it’s the artist giving him a sound or something, but he creates sounds for artists. Sometimes their whole sound.”

But, even though Dean and Hamelin have had an enormous impact on Shake’s trajectory, she wants fans to know her production skills are not to be overlooked. Conjuring the beat switches heard on “Skin & Bones” and “Come Back Home” herself, Shake has come a long way from her teen years when she ditched producing in favor of rapping and singing because of her difficulty getting accustomed to production software.

Being able to handle any task necessary in the music making process, Shake still does not feel that she’s underrated in any way. She just wants her music to connect with people and for them to understand its message.

“The people that understand my music don’t underrate it. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and the people that need my music will have it.”

070 Shake to OGM

Along with joining her idol Kid Cudi, whose melodies and harmonies have been a big reference for her, on his upcoming fall tour, 070 Shake sees a collaboration with her partner Kehlani in the future. 

“I would [like to make music with Kehlani]. We’re gonna for sure. We’re just taking our time with it because we have our own individual stuff going on.”

Similar to her approach with working with Kehlani, Shake’s laid-back persona truly keeps her from rushing or worrying about things out of her control. You Can’t Kill Me is not only a reflection of her evolved mindstate, but a mantra for how she intends to live life every day.

Stream ‘You Can’t Kill Me’ below!