While Palestinian-Canadian musician Belly hasn’t exactly broken into the Top 40 for his own performances, that’s hardly a surprise. The rapper first made a name for himself as a producer and writer, and he’s penned songs for known hit makers like Beyonce and The Weeknd. But it’s been over a decade since his first album dropped. A lot has changed in the past 11 years. Belly has been nominated for both an Emmy and a Grammy, and he’s won numerous SOCAN Songwriting Awards.
But perhaps the most important reputation is the one he’s built among his fellow musicians. While his freshman debut may have not topped the charts, the talent behind “Immigrant” is hard to ignore. This sophomore album is a veritable murderer’s row of some of the biggest names in the industry today. Meek Mill, M.I.A., and Yo Gotti are just scratching the surface of guest stars on this album, but there’s little doubt that Belly is the star of the show here.
That’s because he brings a unique voice to the genre of hip-hop. As a devout Muslim and a firm critic of strict immigration policies, Belly comes from a perspective that’s rarely seen in most of his contemporaries. Instead, the album feels more akin to the days when Mos Def and Talib Kwali tore up the underground scene with their social conscious brand of rap. But while politics feature prominently, the entire album isn’t a polemic. As might be expected from an album featuring The Weeknd, there’s no shortage of party tracks in this album. Whether Belly can make the transition from hit maker to headline musician has yet to be seen, but “Immigrant” is a promising start for his transition back to the stage.