Published Nov 28, 2017It's been 15 years since Belly started in the Canadian music industry, first co-founding the Ottawa-based record label CP Records in 2002, followed by his debut The Revolution in 2007. The young rapper soon found himself nominated for a Juno, and grooming artists like Massari in the process, but it wouldn't be until 2015 that he'd land himself in the spotlight of critical acclaim, while working with one of Canada's biggest artists, the Weeknd, earning him six writing credits on Beauty Behind the Madness. That same year, Belly would announce his signing to Jay-Z's Roc Nation, and his career has been quickly rising since.
Belly's new album Mumble Rap serves as a testament to not only his hard work, but the current state of rap music. "I've taken a lot more time to hone in on what I do, and hone in on my craft itself and hone in on the skills I needed to have to play at this level," he tells Exclaim! "It's not an easy task, so I know it had a lot of work and preparation. I look at it like this is brand new, I don't have a chip on my shoulder like, 'Man, I've been doing this longer than you!' No. We're all new artists right now. I'm a new artist too."
At a time when "mumble rap" has become synonymous with mediocre rapping, Belly explains the thought behind the title. "I like to stir the pot," he says, laughing. "It had a lot to do with the fact that I don't really appreciate that term too much. I like rap in all flavours, so it was a term I wanted to take back. A lot of people nowadays, when they think of mumble rap or when they wanna bump mumble rap, they're gonna go find a dope-ass rap album. That's what I wanted."
Following the release of his mixtape InZombia, which Belly has described as coming from a dark time in his life, he recounts those stories on Mumble Rap from a new perspective. "When I was in the dark hole, I would write shit about myself, and it would put a lot of shit in perspective for me. When I was writing from the outside looking in, the perspective was already there and I already knew what the bigger picture was, but now I had a better chance to really explain what really happened, and put pen to paper," he divulges.
Songs like "Lullaby" and "Immigration to the Trap" speak to these hardships, reflecting Belly of the past, but also looking to the future. "It took me a long time to even be able record ['Lullaby']," he says. "I wrote one line and I scratched it out. I was like 'I can't say this,' and then I was like, 'Nah, fuck that, write that down.' I'm not ashamed of that shit no more, because I came through it, so I can talk about it."
Whether he's aware or not, Belly's second chance isn't a far cry from the socio-political rapper who first rose to fame in 2007; rather, it's just a continuation, bringing together all walks in life through music.
As for the next chapter of his life? Belly simply says, "I would hope the pages would be blank, and every time you flipped the page, a beautiful picture would form. The universe knows where I'm going, and I'm just gonna let it do what it does."
Mumble Rap is out now via XO/Roc Nation/Republic.