Palestinian-Canadian rapper Ahmad Balshe, or Belly as he’s known to fans, was once the unsung hero behind some of today’s hottest singles. For years, the songwriter turned performer quietly penned projects for the likes of The Weeknd and Beyoncé, and even won the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada’s “Songwriter of the Year” award in 2016.
That same year also proved to be the big breakthrough moment for the artist, who signed to Roc Nation in 2015. Following the release of his Juicy J-featured single “Zanzibar” and his acclaimed mixtape Inzombia, critics marked him as one to watch in 2017. Most recently, Belly teamed up with another, if not one of the most, prolific names in hip-hop – Future. The two collaborated on the song “Frozen Water” and recently shot a music video in California. Highsnobiety went behind the scenes of the shoot to chop it up with Belly about his relationship with Future and what we can expect from him in 2017.
So how would you describe this video?
It’s trippy. It’s us trying to capture a vibe or mood that is hard to capture for a lot of people. Some of this you have to experience and live. You have to get on this level per se.
What do you think is the most interesting part or something that people will be surprised about?
I think the fact that me and Future have been friends for as long as we have been. We were involved in different things, but this is the first time we have done something like this together. It’s going to be special.
Do you have a favorite among your collaborations? Is it the best one to date?
I would say maybe not. First of all, I did one with my bro that became a number one song three weeks ago. I just put a gold plaque on the wall!
I heard you’re leaving for a tour tomorrow. Is it your first one?
I’ve been on a few tours. I think the difference with this one is that we’re getting to work with the guys I usually vibe with outside of music. Going on the road with Juicy J is like second nature. He’s family for real. He’s such a legend in his own, especially on stage. He really puts on a show. It’s definitely going to be my best experience to date.
How would you describe your creative process? Do you like to work by yourself or do you prefer to work with a bunch of creatives and present something to your fans as a whole package?
I’m a ‘great minds work alone’ type of person. When it comes to crafting my music and my sound in particular, I write everything I do for myself. I think that would be my strong point. When it goes down it’s all said and done. The only writing credits of my music are my own.
That’s so rare! A lot of big songs have like 24 writers on it.
I am from the school of XO; if there’s more than two or three people in the room we would just shy away from the session. Those are the real moments. I think this is why me and Abel (The Weeknd) are able to work closely together. The chemistry is there and the vibe is there. Something tangible is there. It doesn’t feel like an assembly line.
Do you have a special procedure or routine you practice before you start making music and getting in the zone?
Listen to music; that’s the best way to get ready to start making music. To be inspired by the greats. The guys that make you like “How do they think of that?”.
Who have you been admiring lately?
I listen to so much music from people who inspire me, but right now I would say tons of people from the past. I might wake up and put on some Bob Marley on or some Black Sabbath.
Can you talk about your style? Did it change with the new music you created, places you traveled, things you saw?
Bling, for sure. The thing with bling is… it’s the same reason why they give you a gold medal in the Olympics. So I deserve this gold medal right there, I won the race. But the inspiration for me comes from life. Waking up and going through shit, going places and seeing certain things. And when it comes to crafting my sound, the reason why I’m blessed is because I have to take some mirrors off when I write. I get to step into the studio with people who see me in different styles and create different styles. I was able to apply all of that to my own music. You can’t pigeonhole my music. It’s very versatile.