Canadian Hip Hop artist, Belly is rising in to chart prominence and is sure to continue his trajectory with his latest project Another Day In Paradise. Real name Ahmed Balshe, he was born in Palestine, and now resides in Ottawa, Ontario where his music career stems. His stage name ‘Belly’ is shortened from ‘Rebellyus’ and he is known for having a close relationship with fellow Canadian The Weeknd, for whom, he wrote six songs for his album Beauty Behind The Madness.
Another Day In Paradise is Belly’s third studio album, following his 2007 debut The Revolution which went Gold in Canada. The new record is produced by Roc Nation and The Weeknd’s own XO Records, and features other well-known names such as Lil’ Wayne, Travi$ Scott and Juicy J and has a classic post Hip-Hop/R&B sound. The album release is the spur for Belly’s Live From The Shadows tour which begins in June, and is sure to feature a number of this project’s twelve esteemed tracks.
One track that especially stands out from the rest is “Ballerina”, which begins with a faint 90’s vibe intro. It has a softer message than the usual rap lyrics, other people are checking out Belly’s girl and making their judgement, yet he continues to view her as the delicate ‘ballerina’ that she is, “You call her a stripper that’s my ballerina”.
This is Belly at his finest; he is not rapping the lyrics, as he wants to separate the serenade from the rest of the tracks with his vocal abilities. The chorus is catchy and it is easy to imagine this song providing the backing music for break-dancers with its beat and breakdown between chorus and verse.
“Money Go” features the elusive Travis Scott and his backing vocals are immediately recognisable. This track easily has the ability to reach number one, as the structure of the song is popular with chart music and it has a very distinctive melody. The lyrics are clever, which seems odd to say about rap but the style of music often slyly tells stories even though it may appear through stereotypes to talk about sex, drugs and violence.
“Give a b***h the f****in’ moon and stars/Probably say that all she need is space” shows Belly’s frustration with his relationships with women as no matter how hard he tries to please her, such as giving her the moon and stars, she is still discontented. She wants her space and he literally gives her a part of space. Throughout the song, Belly speaks of his connection with money and women; they come when there is money but as soon as it is spent, they are gone. The song reflects on the falsities of being famous and the inability to find love when the women are only seeking fame and wealth.
Each song has its own personality; “Favourite Colour” begins with an oriental sound, yet quickly breaks into a rap beat. Belly experiments with different sounds and distortions of his voice to separate each song and as such, allow for each track to stand-alone. This track breaks down at different intervals, there is a verse of spitting rap lyrics, and then it turns into a repetitive bridge between the choruses to change the tone ready for the slightly depressive tone.
Belly is an astute lyricist, “Favorite color blue, that’s because of you / It reminds me of how you made me feel”, as you feel that there is a front in his songs to be the rap god who can pull any girl and spends his days taking drugs and spending money, yet there is an underlay of emotion as he has lost the girl that he actually wants to hold onto, “My heart is empty”.
Belly is a really talented rapper, and in a period of music where there is a lot more attention given to artists of his caliber, he should do just fine. The album is diverse in tone and sound, each song has its own reasoning and appeal, so as a listener it feels as though you are there with Belly as he is influenced to write these lyrics. Belly cannot only rap; his vocal abilities are also winning, which is the double threat that makes for a successful artist in 2016.
Words by Libby Beacham