Every morning at precisely 11:30 a.m., 070 Shake puts Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on a record player in the studio where she works in New Jersey. “Every day, at the same time,” the 22-year-old singer says. Shake is signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam, one of the most storied imprints in hip-hop, which gives some producers who show up to work with her the wrong impression; Dark Side of the Moon helps communicate what she’s actually going for. “With me, any session I go into I want to be completely open, and not put me into a box,” she says. “If you put me in a box, then I’m going to take myself out the box.”
She’s found that many of the producers she works with are receptive to her unorthodox ideas. “They don’t want to be making trap beats all day. Deep down, you want to make some Eighties synth pop or something, but you don’t have anyone to make it with,” she says. “Any time I work with a producer, we become a band — it’s not just artist and producer.” Modus Vivendi, Shake’s dizzyingly genreless debut album from earlier this year, effectively bears that philosophy out. “I’m open to stepping into every single world of music that there is,” she says.
Shake was signed by Kanye West two years ago, just six months after writing and recording her first song. “Compared to a lot of peoples’ stories that I’ve heard, it was pretty quick,” she says. “Some people have to work for years; I made my first song, and six months after I got signed by my biggest inspiration at the time.”
Despite the compressed timeline, though, Shake maintains that none of this was surprising to her. “I don’t think I see time the way everybody sees time,” she says. “Nothing really surprises me too much. Everything is moments, everything is close together.”
Not long after her signing, Shake made a yowling debut on West’s 2018 song “Ghost Town,” stealing the scene with a brief, electrifying feature that she finished the day of the song’s release. “It feels like it’s someone else,” she said at the time, “and then I think, ‘Damn, that’s crazy.’”
For most artists, a guest spot with Kanye West could be the pinnacle of their career; Shake made sure to keep working. Her trip to Wyoming had another, longer-lasting benefit: an introduction to West’s longtime collaborator and veteran producer Mike Dean. “Mike!” she exclaims when his name is brought up. “Mike is not only someone I work with, but he’s definitely a friend of mine. I’m very inspired by him, and my girl has a crush on him.”
Together, Shake and Dean began to lean into their more psychedelic tendencies together, moving into spacier, harder-to-define musical territory. The songs they work on together often pull as much from prog rock as they do from hip-hop. “It was more telepathic,” Shake says of their stylistic pivots. “We felt a vibe, and we’re very free.”
For now, she’s relying on that sense of mysticism to keep her musical life going in isolation. She and her primary producer are distancing separately, so she’s falling back on other ways to prep new music. “I’m kind of astral-projecting in the music sense, because of the virus,” she says. “I’m just collecting thoughts and ideas and references, and creating a mood board in my mind, because the studios are closed. I haven’t got to really be in there, but I’m gathering thoughts.”