Belly, for some reason, isn’t a terribly well-known artist in hip-hop, despite his high-profile associations and flashy credits. Born Ahmad Balshe in the Palestinian West Bank and raised in Ottawa, Canada, he hooked up with Canadian superstar The Weeknd’s XO record label in 2015, contributing to the singer’s Grammy Award-nominated, 50 Shades Of Grey single “Earned It.” He’s won two Juno Awards — which have often been called the Grammys of Canada. He’s currently signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, a distinction Jay personally bestowed after being impressed by the MC/songwriter’s prolific work ethic, biting wit, and smooth flow.
His previous release, last year’s Mumble Rap, somehow went criminally overlooked in spite of its cornucopia of singles produced by Canadian hitmakers Boi-1da and T-Minus. While Pusha T is the talk of hip-hop right now, last year, he only turned in a bare handful of performances, one landing on Mumble Rap‘s “Alcantara” and yet… nothing.
That may change with the release of Belly’s latest, Midnight Zone, only his second “official” studio album. With the blessing of Jay-Z, Midnight Zone may be the moment that Belly finally receives the shine it’s obvious he’s been grinding toward for the last few years. The Palestinian-Canadian rapper appears ready for his crossover moment, leading the way with a radio-friendly, melodic single featuring The Weeknd, “What You Want,” and a compulsive drive to create. He’s done living in the shadows. It’s time to shine.