Looking Back At 070’s Shake’s Dual-Natured Debut “Modus Vivendi”

Happy 4 year anniversary to 070 Shake’s debut, “Modus Vivendi”

At 22 years old, on January 17th of 2020, Danielle Balbuena released her debut album, Modus Vivendi. Signing to G.O.O.D. Music in 2015, the New Jersey rapper had been making waves for years prior to Modus Vivendi’s release, striking radio success with her single “Honey” in 2016. Her music explores uncharted sonic worlds, though taking influence from other visionary artists like Kanye West, The Weekend, Kid Cudi, and FKA Twigs. 

Merging elements of Rap, R&B, and Electronica through a myriad of flows and sonic experiments, 070 Shake presents us with an album that pushes Hip-Hop music forward. Thanks to the synthesizers of Mike Dean, Modus Vivendi captures something otherworldly in its composition.

Modus Vivendi translates from Latin as “a way of living.” There is also a legal definition that stands as an agreement that allows conflicting parties to coexist peacefully, either indefinitely until a final settlement is reached. Both of these definitions are integral to understanding this Modus Vivendi, they are woven into the craft of each track on the album.

Let’s have a look at the tracklist:

1. “Don’t Break The Silence” 1:44
2. “Come Around” 1:36
3. “Morrow” 4:06
4. “The Pines” 3:33
5. “Guilty Conscience” 3:33
6. “Divorce” 3:39
7. “It’s Forever – Interlude” (With The Ebonys) 0:17
8. “Rocketship” 3:04
9. “Microdosing” 3:39
10. “Nice To Have” 3:52
11. “Under The Moon” 3:27
12. “Daydreamin” 2:48
13. “Terminal B” 5:30
14. “Flight319” 3:21

Runtime: 44:14

There are 14 tracks on the album. It contains two arcs that tell different stories about a relationship. Modus Vivendi is split in two by “It’s Forever – Interlude,” a sample from The Ebony’s 1971 self-titled release. 

As you can see above, the album begins with track 1 “Don’t Break The Silence.” The title references this state of peaceful coexistence that’s found in Modus Vivendi. The silence is required to keep these two apart, without it, it becomes an inescapable cycle. If you remove track 1, the last song on the album, “Flight319,” flows seamlessly into track 2, “Come Around.” This displays the cyclical nature of the album and the relationship that it’s centered around.

“Don’t Break The Silence” stands out from the rest of the album by being a very calm instrumental introduction. Albeit not entirely absent, the beat takes a backseat in favor of sweeping synths and vocal soundscapes from Dani, reminiscent of Kid Cudi’s signature humming. 

The track flows into “Come Around” which takes hold of the spotlight with powerful synth bursts and a killer hook. 070 Shake lets her lyrics stretch, echoing through risers and faders. 

Track 3 is “Morrow.” What kicks off with soft guitar playing flips into hard groovin’ 808s. Dani unpacks the paranoia that sits within her mind as she soars along the track. Then suddenly, 070 Shake bounces around in the chorus singing,

”I know it’s hard to swallow

I don’t know if I’ll be here tomorrow (yeah)

‘Morrow (yeah, yeah), Tomorrow (yeah)

‘Morrow (yeah, yeah), Tomorrow

Synths reel Dani back in as she reflects on her inner thoughts. This introspection is set to hypnotic spiraling keys. Then it’s back to the killer chorus and lights out for “Morrow.”

Surging fuzzy synths summon an inquisition in “The Pines,” which interpolates an American folk song of the same name. This isn’t the first track to do this, the most notable one is Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”

The chorus repeats “the pines” as the beat collapses. 070 Shake jumps back in to spit some bars, breaking her inflection in a myriad of creative flows. As the beat intensifies, 070 Shakes grows progressively more aggressive. Violin flairs swell in the background, dancing on top of some 808s as 070 Shake goes in for the kill. 

The tension releases between the waves of bass, strung along violins, and 070 Shake’s aggro flow make this an awesome track.

“Guilty Conscience” is unquestionably the star track of Modus Vivendi. The song contains samples of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” The story unfolds in infidelity as Dani walks into her lover with another in the middle of the night. She finds solace in the fact that she was up to her own games as well, singing, “I caught you but you never caught me.” 

There’s also a killer remix of this track done by Tame Impala.

Next, “Divorce” rips us out from Earth and tosses us far out into the Milky Way. As 070 Shake floats through the cosmos with jet-powered synthesizers, she reflects on a relationship that seems doomed. This brings about the end of arc 1- the death of the relationship, following the found infidelity in the previous track. 

Her usage of sampling in the interlude is pristine. 070 Shake takes The Ebony’s “It’s Forever” and uses it to split the album in half. This 17 second track leads beautifully into the next track, “Rocketship.” 

Track 8, “Rocketship,” is an anthem, propelling the album forward into its next arc with Dani’s innovative flows.

Dani asks, “How long?” before answering in a series of echoes, “Forever!!”

All of this makes the track feel boundless, as Dani sets out to become exactly who she wants to be. She turns inward after the failure of her relationship and feels unstoppable as she pursues what she believes she was meant for. “Rocketship” also includes a sample of “Gardens in the Rain” by Isao Tomita (a cover of a composition by Claude Debussy). 

Next up is “Microdosing,” which grows until it blooms into a garden of swirling synths.
“I wanna be your everything cuz I wanna leave you with nothing.” This continues painting the image of this relationship that is now slipping into Dani’s life.

“Nice To Have” is a movie in and of itself. Tucked away into the 3 minute 52 second runtime is a story of cycles and satisfaction. The beat is strong and melodic, with Dani leaning more into her R&B influences. Each verse focuses on a new aspect of her craving for intimacy: needing to be held, known, and cared for. The bridge breaks away into this lover’s other desires, such as fame, spitting the line “Lookin at the models all up on the screen / Thinkin’ that should be me up on the TV.”

“Under The Moon” sets off on a quest to the stars. As she travels along the beat, synths make their rounds in the background. Finally, a hunger sets in and she shouts “I wanna get high.” Those synths from earlier begin to fly skyward. We get some twisted up cadences from 070 Shake as she ricochets back and forth. Ultimately we come back to the same place that we were at the beginning, “I wanna get high.” Those same synths climb higher this time, bringing us into space with their cries.This track exemplifies Dani’s need for escapism, smoking away feelings she can’t seem to endure.

“Daydreamin” takes a warped beat and weaves it into a shimmering serenade. As 070 Shake uses raw 808s and synthbass coupled with her glorious vocals coated in reverb to create something mesmerizing. And of course, it would feel incomplete without that 070 Shake flow switch-up that almost comes as a signature for the New Jersey rapper.

We fall into “Terminal B,” a gorgeous love song about an undeniable feeling. The lines “and then I start to wonder / why can’t I feel it with another” mark a turning point for the album that puts the whole story into perspective. Maybe it’s fate? These lovers go in circles, orbiting each other until they ultimately come back together. This song feels like racing down the highway with a beautiful sunset to your right. As we blaze down the road, an array of sounds fill our ears from 070 Shake’s glistening vocals to familiar violin swells. This truly is the “sunset” of this album because after this, it’s off to the final track on Modus Vivendi.

070 Shake walks, runs, floats, and flies on “Flight319,” all the while telling tales of life as she drifts through space. This track is split in two, much like Modus Vivendi as a whole. The first half is a verse woven with the wisdom of 22 year-old Danielle Balbuena. 

“Lost her only son and he wasn’t even 3 / Now try telling me that everything is meant to be / It’s hard to believe a vision you can’t see / But tell me have you looked at the air that you breathe?”

“Say, ohh / I’ll never know / How long I’ll stay / How far I’ll go

Said, ohh / I’ll never know / How long I’ll stay /How far I’ll go”

Bliss. “Astronaut / Answer now like an astronaut / Yeah, I’m gone like an astronaut / Yeah, I’m gone like an astronaut, yeah.” 

Halfway through the track, we hear “Goodnight to all of you, wherever you are”

Those familiar synths slide back in and guide us home, looping brilliantly into “Come Around” and completing the story.

Modus Vivendi exhibits strong elements of craft and sonic exploration as 070 Shake’s debut. 070 Shake’s music is characterized by escapism, intimacy, and extraordinary moments of self-improvement. All of these elements coalesce into a cinematic experience of an album that reveals itself more with every listen.


Favorite Tracks: “Come Around,” “Guilty Conscience,” “Nice To Have,” “Under The Moon,” “Terminal B,” and “Flight319.”

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