070 Shake has a voice that sounds invincible. The world first heard it when she was plucked from comparative obscurity to sing on Kanye West’s haphazard 2018 album Ye. Her eerie, altered vocal then appeared on several more projects produced by the rapper, and now her debut album, Modus Vivendi – somewhat delayed, following its initial announcement in mid-2019 – arrives on his label, GOOD Music.
In her previous features, the New Jersey singer’s voice elevated West’s and Pusha T’s rap to a kind of futuristic gospel. In interviews, Shake has spoken about wanting to sing about difficult subjects – such as drug addiction and mental health – in a warm, comforting way. On Modus Vivendi, without any other voices interjecting, there are several points where she does so.
The propulsive Guilty Conscience, for example, has a chorus as ebullient as its synths, despite being about infidelity. Other high points include the night-cruising jam Under the Moon and the emo Auto-Tune epic The Pines, both of which have enough drama to soundtrack a stylish thriller.
But while Shake occasionally excels at crafting musical gems out of dark paranoia, her themes are stretched somewhat thin over the course of the whole record and on some tracks she ends up sounding listless. Her solo material has yet to achieve the contrast and nuance that makes her work with West feel special – but there are certainly daring moments here that come close.