As soon as people heard the tracks on West’s 2018 album, Shake was the name on the tip of the industry’s tongue. With her refusal to be tied to any single category—both in her music and with regards to her sexuality—the 22-year-old artist, born Danielle Balbuena, presented a uniquely modern response to our collective cultural desire to define everything and everyone. But if there is a defining singularity about her, it’s that she doesn’t follow anyone else’s rules. Even her forthcoming debut album, Modus Vivendi, which translates to “a way of living,” is about allowing “conflicting parties to coexist,” she tells me, “and put [their] differences to the side.”
Her strength—and, perhaps, her modus vivendi—is that she doesn’t care if people try to form some kind of narrative around her music and her identity, her connection with Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music, or even her relationship with her partner, Sophia Diana Lodato. And it probably helps that she still doesn’t have a phone. Critics’ voices aside, Shake’s rejection of labels like “queer,” and “rapper,” is just another layer of her confidence. In an age where calling oneself an artist is as easy as typing it online, Shake’s reluctance to do so only makes her more appealing,and somehow makes the conviction with which writes her lyrics even more real. That’s why, when she says things like, “I’m just walking through this life, doing what I was meant to,” it’s easy to believe her. And when she spits, “The future’s bright,” we know it’s true.