Canadian rapper Belly (aka Rebellyus) was born Ahmad Balshe in the West Bank Palestinian city of Jenin. Hoping to escape violence and poverty, Belly’s family immigrated to Ottawa, Canada when he was a boy. Belly was purportedly selling drugs on the street by age 13 and already distinctly aware of growing up poor and Muslim in a primarily non-Muslim country. Having long been interested in hip-hop, he began expressing anger over his situation by rapping, and soon garnered a reputation as a formidable MC. He even drew the attention of local record label entrepreneur Tony Sal, who signed Belly to his fledgling CP Records. By 2003, the still teenaged Belly had developed a strong local following and released various singles as well as several mixtapes featuring collaborations with DJs Kay Slay and Big Mike.
In 2007, Belly released his debut full-length album, The Revolution, which revealed a strong focus on religion and the turmoil in the Middle East. The album garnered the rapper considerable attention, achieving gold status in Canada and earning the 2008 Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year. Several independently released mixtapes followed before Belly returned to his proper solo work with 2012’s Sleepless Nights 1.5. Included on the album were the singles “Hot Girl,” featuring Snoop Dogg, and “The Top,” featuring Ava. In 2015, Belly released the mixtape Up for Days and contributed to the Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness. That same year, he signed a recording contract with Roc Nation and released the single “Might Not,” which found the Weeknd returning the favor.
In 2016, he delivered his third full-length album, Another Day in Paradise, which showcased guest appearances from Waka Flocka Flame, Lil Wayne, Travis Scott, and others. Included on the album was the single “Zanzibar,” featuring Juicy J. That year, Belly also helped co-write “6 Inch” with the Weeknd for Beyoncé’s Lemonade. He would later be honored as Songwriter of the Year at the 2016 Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada Awards. That same year saw him put out his tenth mixtape, Inzombia, which featured a number of guest artists including Young Thug, Ty Dolla $ign, and Ashanti. He followed up in 2017 with the Mumble Rap mixtape. ~ Matt Collar