Danielle Balbuena from New Jersey, better known by her stage name 070 Shake, started releasing songs on SoundCloud in 2015. At the time, she met a local rapper, Phi, and they founded the 070 collective, named after the area code for North Bergen in New Jersey. Shake has said on several occasions that the collective wasn’t really planned, it was just a group of friends with similar interests.
Her approach to composing was a breath of fresh air, and her voice and lyrics offered something different. She stood out, so much that she was spotted by people connected to Kanye. In 2016, her dreams came true when she was signed by his G.O.O.D. Music label. Just try to wrap your mind around that – being recognized by your idol, getting signed by his label, and then later featured on his song.
070 Shake has said that just a couple of weeks before she got a call from G.O.O.D., she made a resolution that she would sign with no one else but Kanye – and the universe listened.
After she got signed, she became the opening act for English Rock band The 1975. The 26 shows she did with them were another stepping stone from the perspective of exposure and onstage experience. During that time, she also focused on her recordings, and in December 2016, the 070 collective released their first mixtape – "The 070 Project: Chapter 1" through the1am Ent/EMPIRE label.
Why is the 070 collective so important to Shake's success?
It was through the collective that she got noticed in the first place. The network of young artists supported each other with connections, know-how, equipment, sharing the music with their fans, and even money to produce and record songs. Even though Shake might have jumped ahead, she still performs with friends from 070, whom she regards as part of her family. Also, after her breakthrough, some of the spotlight is falling on others as well – they're a part of her name after all.
The 070 mixtape was the beginning, but things started to really heat up when Shake dropped her solo debut, the 6-track “Glitter” EP, in March 2018. She had grown significantly since her first releases, and fans loved her new tracks. Her YouTube views more than doubled from March to April that year, but the peak was yet to come.
Breakthrough: Enter Pusha T and Kanye
In May 2018, she collaborated with Pusha T on the track “Santeria”. She also appeared on Kanye’s songs “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes”, and it was just the boost she needed. Her YouTube views jumped from about 100k in May to over 600k in June, while her SoundCloud streams increased by 30,000. It comes to show that Kanye, despite his shenanigans in the last couple of years, is still influential in the Hip Hop world, and whoever he takes under his wing can fly high.
The funny thing is that the collab with Kanye almost didn’t happen, as he remembered that he wanted her on the “Ye” album tracks at the last minute. She had to record her vocals literally hours before the release of the album. It’s hard to say if she would have seen such success today if she hadn't appeared on Kanye’s album.
“Ye” wasn’t all that well received by critics, and some agreed that Shake’s performance was the highlight of the album. So, did she shine even brighter because of that? Well, one thing is for sure: the songs did a great deal for her popularity.
In May 2019, she did the “Holy Mountain” collab with DJ Khaled, and again, her YouTube views more than doubled during that period, despite the song being published on his channel.
Everybody was waiting for the debut
By the end of 2019, the Hip Hop world was more than ready for Shake's debut album. In January 2020, she released “Modus Vivendi”, which was described as “the most compelling and complete release under G.O.O.D. Music since Pusha T’s 'Daytona'” by Pitchfork.
You can hear that she didn’t compromise on the album. “Modus Vivendi” is unmistakably all her. She even unpolished a few songs to make it sound a bit rougher, according to her own words. What she released was her soul, poured into music, and the fans love it.
The video for “Guilty Conscience” is a hit with over 1M YouTube views in approximately one month since the release. Viberate data shows that the album might be one of the biggest debuts in 2020. The YouTube views on Shake's channel jumped from about 380k in December to over 1M in January, while SoundCloud streams almost doubled in the first month of 2020. With stats like that, the future looks bright.
Many musicians get trapped in copying their heroes, which can be a step in the wrong direction. Learn from them, yes, but create something unique. It was the recipe that worked for Shake.
Kanye’s support had a big impact on Shake's career. She used the opportunity, but it’s never simply given. Her lyrics, voice, attitude, it all just screams of something fresh and special. Her appearance on the “Ye” album opened the doors to a wider audience, and she used that to the full potential. She took her part of the “Ghost Town” and made it her own.
Cover photo: Def Jam Press Room
In the end, the talent, no matter how big it is, is only part of the story. Networking is key, and a smart first step, if you're an artist and just starting out yourself, is to sign up and claim your profile on Viberate.
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