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Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Rapper Belly Drops Album Inspired by War in Gaza, "96 Miles From Bethlehem"


Fri 31 May 2024 | 10:21 AM
Belly
Belly
Yara Sameh

Palestinian-Canadian rapper Belly has surprise-dropped a new album titled “96 Miles From Bethlehem”.

It is described as being about “the gift, curse, and fate of being Palestinian” but is inspired by the war in Gaza. 

The 40-year-old artist, whose real name is Ahmad Balshe, was born in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank — which is located 96 miles from Bethlehem, as the album’s title says — but relocated to Canada with his family when he was 7.

The brief, nine-song album is, not surprisingly, a dark listen, with his rapping style jarring against the ominous rhythms of many of the songs, which also feature spoken segments in Arabic and occasional Middle Eastern melodies.

It was released on Universal Arabic Music (founded by Weeknd manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby in 2021) and features guest appearances from fellow Palestinian artists Elyanna, Saint Levant, and MC Abdul and production contributions from DaHeala (The Weeknd) with traditional instrumentalists.

After launching his career in the early ‘00s, Belly became one of the most successful rappers in Canadian history.

He went on hiatus for several years and focused on songwriting and production with the Weeknd, and had a hand in many of his biggest hits, from “The Hills” to “Blinding Lights.” Belly relaunched his career as a rapper in 2018 with the album “Immigrant.” “Bethlehem” is his fourth full-length album.