Sudden development of more pops than usual. VPI TNT turntable.

Just last night, I suddenly had the onset of frequent pops on any record that I play. They are so extreme that sometimes they lead to my amp shutting down. I recently shortened the belts on my VPI TNT IV (not using the tri-pulley system), and I have noticed increased static electricity when I take records off the turntable. So, I think it could have something to do with that. I therefore grounded the motor, but it still happens. I was thinking next to try grounding the platter spindle. The tonearm is already grounded (all turntable-related grounds to the preamp). I have not heard any pops with the cartridge either free-floating or resting on the record. I am trying a CD player now and have not heard any pops so far. So, I'm thinking it's either the static electricity, cartridge, or something with the internal phono stage (bad capacitor or something). Any thoughts?

My system is: Transfiguration Phoenix, Wheaton Triplanar IV, VPI TNT IV, SDS, Spectral DMA 20 w/ internal phono stage, DMC 180, Rockport Aviors, and Spectral/MIT cables.
You need to make sure the tnt's bearing is grounded and that your arm's grounding is also intact.

Also, a humidifier may help.
"...Also, a humidifier may help..."

I'm thinking this. Are you running the A/C more? 
Static electricity, phonostage overload, bad cartridge or alignment. 

I'd ground the spindle first. Get a conductive record brush. If you can, drill a small hole and attach a wire with a sheet metal screw. Attach the other end to ground. Clean you our records before and after play discharging the static. While the record is playing gently use the brush and see if the popping stops. If it does not then you have another problem.

 Next would be the phono stage.  Try another stage if you have access to one. 

If it is static, your cartridge is very sensitive to it. I would consider a different one. Make sure it is loaded correctly. Perhaps your stage has too much gain for it. Turn it down if you can.

In this thread the OP traced the root cause to loose ground connections. If you have a multi-meter try measuring the grounds to verify continuity. If this does not fix the problem then,

This time of year, the humidity is high, so all things being equal you would expect record static to decrease. Because this onset followed the new belts, You may want to wipe clean the new belts with some alcohol just in case there is some mold release (or gunk) that "may" be the source - though unlikely - its cheap and fast; and do the same to the platter.

Grounding the platter bearing is always a good action. 1st ground the platter bearing to the pre-amp ground used for the phono. Sometimes, you ’may’ need to ground to the wall outlet.

A similar experience is being discussed • View topic - Popping or shorting, and you may get some useful info.
I'm thinking this. Are you running the A/C more?
I just turned on the A/C temporarily yesterday. It is quite dry in Denver in general.
I grounded the female piece surrounding the bearing and am on my first record playback. It's the same record that caused the worst symptoms yesterday. There is a track that had repetitive pops, and they were present again but didn't cause the amp to shut down. I'm not sure about the loudness of the pops as I am using some cheap speakers for the test and can't compare. I don't think there were as many pops overall later in the record. So, I'm not sure if the pops were just amplified or there were additional pops present before.
If it is an overload problem the pops will occur in the same place. Static will be random.
If I remember my VPI had a static problem until I grounded the spindle ‘ platter.
All good suggestions.  I use an Audioquest anti-static brush on each disk.  Seems to work for me.