Written By: Brandon Basile
Rebellious Bars From Your Favorite Ghostwriter That You Aint Even Know You Like
Originality: (4.0 / 5) Vocals/Flow: (4.0 / 5) Lyrics: (5.0 / 5) Production: (4.0 / 5) Average: (4.3 / 5)
Well, no, he didn’t write “U.O.E.N.O.”, but rapper and singer/songwriter, Belly, has garnered many awards for his penning of lyrics for big grossing artists such as Weeknd and Beyonce. Palestinian-Canadian rapper, Ahmad Balshe, who goes by stage name “Belly”, which is short for Rebellious (not the 90 Hype Williams movie), released at least eight different solo mixtapes before his debut studio album The Revolution in 2007. Balshe also dropped collaborative mixtapes with long time hip-hop playmakers such as Kurupt and DJ Drama before taking a hiatus from rap until his resurgence in 2015 upon being signed to XO, the Canadian record founded by Amir “Cash” Esmailian and Canadian music sensation, The Weeknd. He has writing credits for 11 songs on The Weeknd’s more recent albums and has won three Much Music Video Awards, one Juno award and was the recipient of the Songwriter of the Year award by SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) for his “significant and outstanding contributions to popular music over the past year”. His newest LP, Mumble Rap, is his fourth release since signing with XO, and subsequent joint deal with Roc Nation, and was produced mostly by long time hip-hop name drop, Boi-1da. But wait Jay-Z signed a mumble rapper to Roc Nation? Somebody hold my drink!
The album is titled Mumble Rap, but there is not one syllable of mumbling going on in this LP. Mumble Rap is an ironic title because Belly a true school hip-hopper delivering artistically deep diving raps like the truest in the game today. Lyrically, he could fall in line with the bars of the likes of fellow Canadian rapper, Drake, or Roc Nation label mate, J. Cole. With flashy bars like “She on that Bobby Brown / I’m copping new editions / The devil tried to buy my soul / My shit was too expensive ” cuts like “Bobby Brown” could even fall in line with Jay-Z floss rap club sets. On the first single and video from the album, “Immigration to the Trap”, speaks on his hunger for success in the game rhyming bars like “I made a mill for every year of education that I lack,” and the album follows that with odes to success and celebration with “Make A Toast”.
Of course he’s likely been hanging with Drake and the OVO crew, but Belly’s raps stylistically go deeper than the usual raps about booty shaking and the like. “The Come Down is Real Too” sports the typical 90’s R&B sample of looping vocals from SWV as Belly opens with refreshing flows spitting:
Shit been sticky lately
Niykee Heaton, Nikki Baby, I was Nicki crazy
Had dreams of menagin’ both but they been missin’ lately
I’m off the liquor so I’m different maybe
Listen baby, I drove Alyssa crazy, these bitches hate me.
A real rhyme sayer, the entire album only features G.O.O.D. Music Records President and native virginian, rapper Pusha T, as the only artist with a guest verse on the album (Not even a cameo by long-time collaborator The Weeknd)
If you think Mumble Rap will be full of half-enunciated lines tied together by repetitive ad-libs well this is one time in life the phrase “it’s not what it looks like” will actually hold true. Mumble Rap is an artistically challenging LP that is a shining example of the best that hip-hop can be in today’s easily consumable rap culture. Belly delivers witty lyrics and lines that showcase why he has won awards for his sharp penning. As long as he keeps that ink spinning and winning we’ll be here to keep on listening. With bars as dope as “I’m settin’ sail / A star born starboard in this wretched hell / My life is extra real, my film gon’ need some extra reels / Robin went and got a Batmobile,” it seems like we won’t really have a choice.