Now that Canadian hip-hop's emerged into the international spotlight, North of the Border artists are queuing up for miles to get their share of the shine. Near the front of the pack is
, an Ontario heavyweight whose musical resumé stretches back to the early 2000's. Born to Palestinian parents and raised in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan, the artist born Ahmed Balshe took to rapping--and hustling--soon after moving with his family to Ottawa, scoring his first record deal at the ripe young age of 15. After building up a prodigious buzz through various nationally-charting singles and acclaimed mixtapes, the rhymesayer took his career to the next level with debut double-album
, which earned him a 2008 Juno Award for Best Rap Recording. Fresh off the November release of his latest mixtape,
The Best Dream I Never Had
-assisted single "
"), Belly is preparing to follow up his freshman set with new EP
Champagne Dreams Marijuana Thoughts
, coming soon via
, Belly steps into
to discuss how his experiences as a producer and songwriter have influenced his solo work, who's at the top of his collaborative "Bucket List," and why so many hip-hop heads are beginning to look north of the border for new music.
Canada's slowly but surely taking over hip-hop, and you've been there from the beginning. What is it about Canadian hip-hop that the world seems to be connecting with right now?
The talent has always been here, there was just no awareness. Now that some of the spotlight is up here, people are beginning to take notice. I think the world loves to hear a new perspective, a new sound, and that's what we got up here.
You've worked with some major names, most notably Snoop Dogg on "Hot Girl". Who's at the top of your guest feature bucket list?
It would have to be a beat/feature from Kanye, he's one of my favorite musicians.
Your roots lay in production and songwriting. How do those skills influence your work as an artist?
I just love to make music, anyway I can. Making music for myself is the hardest because I set the standard so high for myself. Musically though, it has taken my game to whole new level, being able to understand the different aspects that come together to make beautiful music.
You're currently working on a new album, Champagne Dreams Marijuana Thoughts. After four mixtapes and a gold album, how will this project differ from the music you've made before?
I don't even know yet, I mean.. I'm just making music without labeling it. I don't know where it might end up. I just want to keep giving my fans music that's all.
Last words? Confessions? Shout outs?
The Greatest Dream I Never Had
is out now, if you want to really know about me, download it at
. Also you can follow me on
As an added bonus, be sure to check out Belly's brand new video, "Num8ers," right now below: