Throughout his long and prosperous career, Canadian rapper Belly has maintained consistency in all his projects while keeping the quality incredibly high. From ‘Inzombia’, to ‘Mumble Rap’, ‘The Immigrant’, and now ‘See You Next Wednesday’, each time Belly has delivered substantial records loaded with intricate wordplay over spicy instrumentals from incredible producers, all while utilising a variety of flows and moods. On each album, Belly summons avengers like features from numerous artists. ‘See You Next Wednesday’ is no different.
On his latest project, Belly linked up with several A-list artists like Young Thug, The Weeknd, Big Sean and even Nas, who he was inspired by as a child. On ‘Flowers’, ‘Razor’, and ‘Better Believe’, Belly gifts us with smooth tracks you can play in the club or bump at parties. Meanwhile on other tracks like ‘IYKYK’, ‘Moment Of Silence’, ‘Two Tone’, and ‘Scary Sight’, Belly shows off his rapping abilities with immaculate bars, delivered with surgical precision. On ‘See You Next Wednesday’ Belly proves once again that he is a force to be reckoned with.
VIPER sat down with Belly to discuss ‘See You Next Wednesday’, doing his own stunts and coming up as a battle rapper….
What was your first introduction to the rap game?
I was just freestyle battling, that’s how I came into the game. That was my first taste of like of the Rap game.
This was in Ottawa?
What’s the Rap scene like out there?
At that time, there wasn’t one. It was kind of a rare thing for somebody from Ottawa to be a rapper at that time.
Toronto has become increasingly known for its music scene, do you ever work with artists from other parts of Canada?
I don’t even look at it regionally, the way I approach it is if I get something that I like, I don’t care where it’s from. I’d rather let the music get people in the door, as opposed to where they’re from or us growing up around each other or something.
Did you get engaged recently?
I got engaged man, but I’m Middle Eastern, so our engagement parties look like weddings. Then our weddings look like presidential inaugurations, you know?
The pictures looked really beautiful. How did you guys meet?
We met we met at a rooftop pool. She was taking her little sister and her cousins to the pool and I happened to be there the same day. We just we just hit it off from day one, she’s she’s an amazing person, I’m a lucky guy.
How did you join X’O?
Me and Sal met when we were kids, Sal’s first client in terms of managing artists was me, probably in like early 2000, without making myself sound like a dinosaur. Everything came naturally man, like me, Cash and Sal have been around each other since we were kids. Then we met Abel around 2010 and it was just natural, we all hit it off and it was a family vibe after that. Those are my brothers man, it’s really a brotherhood over there.
Why did you pick the title, ‘See You Next Wednesday’?
I’m just paying homage to one of my favorite directors growing up, John Landis. “See You Next Wednesday” was like an Easter egg that he used to put in all his movies. It’s just me paying homage to the craft and to the art.
Did they actually set you on fire for the album cover?
I do my own stunts man, they definitely set me on fire for that.
Who took the photo?
David Black, one of the best photographers in the world! I’m grateful that he was there to capture that.
Your album is stacked with tons of major artist features, but what producers can we expect on the project?
I obviously got The Animals, those are my go-to guys. Shout out to Rich and Farris, they produced the majority of the project, DannyBoyStyles produced quite a few on it as well, My brother, The Healer, Moneymusic, Walis Lane, Ben Billions, Infamous, Zaytoven. I even produced a couple on there. I co-produced ‘Zero Love’ and I co-produced ‘Wu Tang’.
You also have a Nas feature on this album. When you were younger, was he one of the rap OGs you were listening to?
Oh yeah definitely! I was a Jay Z fan, so I always joke that even though even though you kind of should’ve hated Nas at that point, I couldn’t. He was too good for me to hate him. I was a Jay Z and a Nas fan at the same time, even in the heat of the battle, I was a fan of both guys. I think I was a student of both of them, too. So it was definitely like a lifelong dream to have Nas on the album.
What were these sessions like, were you in album mode all quarantine? Or was it like you had some songs done and you felt like it was time to do an album?
Nah, I never really approach albums like a collection of songs. Once I know that I’ve gotten into a kind of rhythm, then I start the album. I start to wrap my head around what I want it to be, how I want it to sound and I start working towards that. But I’m always going to the studio and making what I feel in that moment, you know? The emotions that are actually trying to come out, that’s what I express when I get in the studio. It’s kind of like a freeform approach, but I definitely take some time planning.
During the pandemic, were you in the studio for most of it or were you recording from home?
I’m in my studio right now, I was really just here in this room. The other guys would come over, we’re all vaccinated and because of the different industry stuff, I’m getting tested quite frequently too. It was a pretty safe process, working from home and stuff like that, we took our precautions and kept it safe.
Are you going to go on tour?
Yeah, I would love to. I’m really just waiting to make sure that everything is open for real, for real, not just a pump fake. It’s something I take quite seriously, I’m not going to risk the lives of my fans or their families, or my family and friends just based on a selfish need to want to go out and perform.
You’ve come a long way as a rapper, from the days of ‘Inzombia’ and ‘Mumble Rap’, now here we are with ‘See You Next Wednesday’. How do you feel that you have changed either personally or musically from album to album?
Just depending on how my life changes, I think that’s what changes. I always try to find the heartbeat of what I want an album to sound like, or the mood that I want to put people in. I think I let life and how I feel dictate what the music is going to really be. ‘Inzombia’ was another dark time in my life that I made it through, but it felt like a horror movie to me. So I wanted my album to sound like that. I wanted it to sound like a horror movie. ‘Mumble Rap’, it came at a time when a lot of people didn’t understand that I could actually rap. I wanted to to show people that [I can], I put out a whole project of me rapping. ‘Immigrant’, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of hate towards immigrants at that time. I wanted to give people an opportunity, especially young immigrants, to look up and see somebody that’s boldly proud of the fact that I came here as an immigrant and was able to accomplish what I accomplished. I wanted that energy and to go out and do great things as well. I think every album reflects what’s affecting me and then I stay true to that and try to put together a project that’s based on that.
What was the transition like going from a battle rapper to creating hit records?
I think it was tough! When I would freestyle back in the day, it wasn’t written, you had to come off the top of the head. I think that in itself is like an art that requires a different type of brain function than writing. I think writing, you get the full time to put it together and make it more poetic. When you just come off the top of the head, it’s like you get to a point where you’re almost reading the words out of your brain. Then if you write too much, you start to lose that skill because your brain becomes comfortable with the fact that you could just sit there and think about it and come up with some shit. Once I got really good with the writing, I think my freestyling started to take a back seat and fall off, so I had to make the full transition. I was like, I can’t be out here mediocre with the freestyles and nice with the writing. I just had to just walk away from the freestyling and stick to writing and rap.
You were able to work with Nipsey Hussle before he passed, what were those sessions like?
Actually, with that song we didn’t do in a session, but I did have quite a few other sessions with him where we just listened in on what each person was doing. From a place of mutual respect, we would listen to each other’s projects sometimes before they came out. Nipsey was wise beyond his years, he was someone that I was always vocal about in terms of how much I loved his music and his character. I was vocal about that on social media and stuff like that. I think it’s a shame that he was taken from us. You know there’s so much more that I feel like Nipsey could have given the world. He gave the world a lot, he gave us so much and left us with so many gems to live by. But I think there was still so much more on what Nipsey could have gave us.
You’re definitely someone that was giving him his flowers while he was still around.
I always believed, man. He was too talented as an artist and too good of a person. I always felt like Nipsey was on his way to something much greater than this.
When you were discovering your taste in Rap, who were you listening to?
Music in general, it hits every emotion. When I was in my younger years in Canada, you know, it was really a mix because I love Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and I love Biggie Smalls at the same time. There was no separation for me, if it was good music I was into it and I was definitely inspired by it.
As an artist it’s important to be able to make different kinds of music and be open minded to other genres.
I was blessed in that sense to not be closed minded when it came to enjoying different types of music. Anything that sounded good to me, I listened to, no matter what genre was.
Is there anything on this album that you think your fans will be surprised by?
People should just really take in the fact that this almost didn’t happen, the rest of my musical career almost didn’t happen. I had some things to figure out and if I didn’t approach my situation that way, I might not even be around right now to talk about. I’m just happy I was able to get back be able to put out music that everybody could listen to. I think that’s the number one thing people should take away from this one.
Photo by David Black
Interview by Calvin Schneider