Album Review – Modus Vivendi by 070 Shake

8.5 / 10

The once up-and-coming artist Danielle Balbuena, known professionally as 070 Shake, has taken the hip-hop scene by storm over the last few years. She’s made early appearances on a Kanye West song as well as on the song ‘My Night’ by Keys N Krates. Released in January 2020, her debut studio album Modus Vivendi follows a stretch of super unique and artistic takes on modern trap-tinged hip-hop music.

Balbuena’s style can be described as abstract and psychedelic, and her lyrics offer something much deeper than materialistic desires and interpersonal lust.

In latin, “modus vivendi” translates into “a way of life.” This notion is fitting for a story-teller like Balbuena as she takes listeners into mini-episodes of her psyche. Themes of infidelity, gender, and drugs play out strongest on the album. All songs fit into an overall psychedelic tone in the production.

As for the infidelity theme, most of the songs in the first half of the album are fitting. Songs like ‘Divorce’ and ‘The Pines’ suggest turmoil in a late-stage relationship. Paranoia and jealousy-fueled lyrics carry things out to a predictable end.

One stand out song on this album is ‘Guilty Conscience.’ This song threatens to outshine every other one on the album, which is both a good and a bad thing. Lyrically, it tells the story of stumbling in on a lover cheating, and at the same time realizing that she at least caught them before they had a chance to catch her in her previous infidelities. So there goes her guilty conscious. All the while, the track is blaring a nostalgic ’80s melody that heightens the drama.

Five AM when I walked in
Could not believe what I saw, yeah
You on another one’s body
Ghosts of the past came to haunt me
I caught you but you never caught me
I was sitting here waitin’ on karma
There goes my guilty conscience

The music video for ‘Guilty Conscience’ carries a different theme. Starting with a quote based around gender norms, Balbuena then proceeds to engage with gang violence, displaying her unsuspecting masculinity and possibly dissipating any preconceptions about her.

After the album crescendo that is ‘Guilty Conscience,’ the rest of the album chills out again with the ultimate psychedelic track ‘Microdosing.’ From there, we get a string of heartfelt, standout songs like ‘Nice To Have’ and ‘Under the Moon’ (which featured in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why).

Balbuena leaves the album with a couple of more forgettable tracks that act as a nice outro to an extremely well-crafted album. Overall, 070 Shake has proven her staying power and unique artistry with Modus Vivendi. She’s not like the other ones in her genre. This is the future of hip-hop music and forget anyone who says that you can’t get existential and emotional in the genre.

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