The Escape Artist
The Escape Artist
Rapper 070 Shake on Growing Up in New Jersey and 21st Century Dating
Interview: Katrina Lainsbury
070 Shake is new to the interview process—this is the first one she’s given—but it should come as no surprise that the 19-year-old rapper has a way with words. Hailing from North Bergen, Shake began turning heads when she started sharing soulful, melodic, sung-rapped tracks via SoundCloud. Now championed by social media influencer-turned-agency boss YesJulz, Shake and her 070 Crew—named after New Jersey’s area code—are courting a global audience and preparing to head out on Shake’s first North American headlining tour. She is upfront about her ambitions: her Instagram bio reads, “Here to remind you what we’re here for,” and her tour merch is emblazoned, “Shake The World.”
Intent on reaching as wide an audience as possible, Shake is already thinking beyond music—she just walked in upstart New York label Gypsy Sport’s Fall/Winter 2017 show and an acting career is in the works. In fact, Shake was in L.A. on her way back from a casting call when Katrina Lainsbury caught up with her over the phone.
What is the story behind your name?
It’s because of a play me and my friend did in high school called “Shake Weave,” so then everybody started calling me Shake. Jersey had a big influence on my life, so that’s why I call myself 070 Shake, because it's the zip code of Jersey. I wanted 070 to come before everyone’s name in the group because we all came from the same area.
When did the whole music thing start to evolve?
About a year ago.
So, what, you just got up one day and were like, “Fuck it, I’m going to do it?”
Yo, literally, though, I typed “Drake type beats” on YouTube, I got my notebook where I wrote all my poems, and then started repeating my poems to the beat, just started flowing with it.
You don’t hear a lot of kids saying they’re into poetry these days.
I did it a lot when I was in school, pretending to write down teacher's notes. It was an escape for me with all of the frustrations and voices that were going on in my head. Writing was the only way to get it out, to escape. So, it was like a drug to me. Once I would pick a topic I would run off with that and write pages and pages. I’ve always felt that I had to do something with these words.
When I’m writing I look at myself as a listener, and I’m like, “Is what I am saying right now going to affect me? Am I going to feel what I am writing as a listener?” If I could touch myself—I'm not a soft person—then I realized I could touch other people. If you’re trying to live forever, you got to make things that are going to last. The way to do that is with love and feeling.
What was it like growing up in New Jersey?
It was fun. You found the family in the streets. Being outside was like home. I grew a relationship with the girls I played basketball with. It was always, “Yo, meet at 80th at this time.” 80th Park Court was where the best basketball courts were at. Everybody was there. You know, you put music on, people start freestyling to instrumental beats and shit.
“If you’re trying to live forever, you got to make things that are going to last. The way to do that is with love and feeling.”
What message are you trying to spread with your music?
The message is to think. Think more than just what people have taught you to think about. If you don’t then the cycle of bullshit is never going to stop. It’s never going to stop until we get people to be like “Yo, I am going to do whatever the fuck I want because I wasn’t put here to do this.” We just want to show people that they're able to do what they want to do. Escape the maze.
I’m really just trying to bring it back to doing things for your neighbors just out of the love you have in your heart, without expecting something in return.
What do you think about everything that’s going on with Donald Trump right now?
I’m excited about what’s going on right now. This whole time, we never had a good president. We never had a good government, even though we think we did. This entire time we have been just content and asleep. People don’t notice until someone like Trump comes in and wakes everyone up. That enrages people, and that makes them want to be like, “Oh, shit, okay.” It takes an eye-opener, though, to get people to prepare for freedom and unity. It’s bringing people together. You’re going to see everyone’s true colors now. Now the devil can’t hide behind faces because we are going to rip their mask off. People who support the judgment of gay people or any judgment in general and don’t have love in their hearts, it’s going to show. And you’re going to have to pick a side.
What is it like dating someone while you are on the come up?
[Laughs] She’s cool and supportive, but she’s still getting used to it. We started talking when I didn’t really have the craziest fanbase. So, she’s trying to get used to girls saying I’m cute and shit, but fuck it. I know she’s going to grow and I’m going to grow with her.
Sometimes I think, “Fuck, if I had Instagram in high school I would have died.”
I was telling my boy the other day it was so much better having a crush on someone without a phone because you would have to wait until the next day to see or to speak to them and you would have so much to say. Nowadays you text when you’re not with them. So it makes it harder when you are with them because you got nothing to talk about. You’ve exhausted all of your conversational topics on shit you’ve sent through iMessage.
I feel like technology has just completely messed with our life cycle in general.
Yeah! We were supposed to just settle down. This technology is supposed to help us live better so that we can chill, but we’ve forgotten why we’re even here.
Any last words?
I love you. [Laughs]
Interview: Katrina Lainsbury