Review: 070 Shake, ‘You Can’t Kill Me’

Rich in emotion and enchanting in sound, You Can’t Kill Me continues to showcase 070 Shake’s talent for remarkable aesthetic.

Shake’s music has a bit of everything. She’s a rapper and a singer-songwriter, merging every genre at her disposal. The vocal delivery and vulnerability is an extension of the Kid Cudi family tree, while the compositional ambitions reach for the level of G.O.O.D. Music founder, Kanye West. Her 2018 contributions to West’s Ye remain talking topics, which pit her to become the most flourishing signee to the label. That potential was unlocked on the 2020 debut album, Modus Vivendi, one of the most blissful debuts of recent times. Two years later, the follow-up aims to fan the fire.

On You Can’t Kill Me, the New Jersey native continues to push the needle in progressive pop, rap and R&B – this time, she’s a little more solemn.

Photography: Eddie Mandell

Contrary to the conventional song structures of Modus Vivendi, You Can’t Kill Me is an abstract effort, toying with the pace of all its tracks. Sonically, it will stand high as one of the boldest albums of the year, going the extra mile to create ambitious soundscapes engineered by Dave Hamelin and Mike Dean. Tracks test the patience of the listener, often rewarding them with thick finales that justify the wait. There’s an element of Frank Ocean’s Blonde to its unhinged nature, along with how Shake sells the romance she’s submerged in. It makes for a challenging experience, but one that puts extra emphasis on the compositional end of music.

For the majority of the material, You Can’t Kill Me goes for the jugular. The three-part “History” switches from church hymn to Great Gatsby score, followed by a gripping breakdown that brings finality to the lovesick tale. “Come Back Home” also takes pride in its structural shapeshifting, impossible to predict the next turn it takes over the five minutes. The production feels like electricity, powering the tracks to send their respective shockwaves.

In other moments, the album is much more subtle. “Skin and Bones” is the most conventional song in the tracklist, a romantic track that marries synth-pop with alternative R&B. “Body” brings a collaboration with the album’s sole feature, Christine and the Queens, who owns the song’s minimal portions. They contrast with Shake’s robotic performance while asserting dominance in her writing. Abstract tracks like “Invited” initially feel like they lead to nowhere, but is a fine example of the album’s experimental structuring, built up with an understated hook and lyrical thoughts that end in ellipses.

When Shake’s lyrics feel sparse, it’s made up with compelling performances. Shake is a natural at conveying emotion, a talent she’s gained from her influencers and honed over her material thus far.

But its grandiosity can also be its demise. You Can’t Kill Me relies too heavy on the synths and explosive transitions, an aspect of the album that becomes predictable once you’ve gained a taste of it. When the production does take away the synths, the songs aren’t left with much to work with (“Wine & Spirits”, “Cocoon”). Due to that eclectic makeup, Shake doesn’t always nail her ideas; you’re left with the feeling that she had more to say, and could have used the power of minimalism a little more.

With such level of soundscape behind her, 070 Shake cannot fail to deliver. You Can’t Kill Me continues to bring her ear for aesthetic to life, continuing the ambition of artists that defined her generation.

8 / 10

Best tracks: “Skin and Bones”, “Web”, “History”, “Body”, “Come Back Home”, “Stay”