French Montana is one of the top figures in the world of hip-hop and beyond. Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Montana and his family left when he was only 13 years old for New York City, and settled in the Bronx. Fluent in French and Arabic, and speaking only a little English, hip-hop became a catalyst for him to learn the language of his new homeland. Living in the mecca of hip-hop, Montana quickly embraced the culture and became enthralled in it. It was during his adolescent years that he made the switch from spectator to player in the rap game.
“I just love hip-hop. the rapping was just a hobby,” explains Montana. “I figured out it was a career when I got my first check, I came out with the Cocaine City DVD. It was a winner from the jump.”
Getting his official start during the street DVD era, Montana began dropping the Cocaine Cityseries in 2002. Featuring raw and uncut interviews with both up-and-coming and established artists like Jadakiss, 50 Cent and Young Jeezy, among other, each volume was also interspersed with music from Montana himself. “The DVDs were always the plan for me to get on as far as rapping,” says Montana. “It was a platform. It was a stepping stone.”
After establishing a following through the DVDs, he solidified his place in hip-hop by dropping mixtapes that to this day are some of the most downloaded. The Mac & Cheese, Coke Boys and Casino Life series of mixtapes established his rep as a hustler with legit rhyme skills that listeners could steadily gravitate to. Mixtapes, viral videos and street singles only heightened Montana’s buzz.
The turning point from mixtape artist to hitmaker came in 2011 with the release of his single, “Shot Caller,” which originally appeared on the Mister 16: Casino Life mixtape. The song became a runaway smash, earning major airplay across the nation and certifying Montana as the next big rapper out of NYC. “It just caught on fire. They say every couple of years someone comes and sweeps the streets,” says Montana. “First it was DMX, then it was 50. I guess it was my turn.”
The success of “Shot Caller” led to a fierce bidding war when several labels began taking interest in signing him. In 2012, Montana announced that he was ready to ride the wave with hip-hop impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records (via Interscope Records). The partnership, fit into French Montana’s vision, as the label has earned a reputation of igniting the careers of bubbling street artists and transforming them into hip-hop game changers.
In May 2013, Montana dropped his debut album Excuse My French via Bad Boy Records and Maybach Music Group. The album, which was executive produced by Sean "Diddy" Combs and Rick Ross, was named by Complex as one of the “most anticipated albums” that year. The project featured several guest appearances, including: Max B, Drake, Rick Ross, sean "Diddy" Combs and of course his Coke Boys crew (Chinx Drugz, Charlie Rock, Cheeze and Flip); with was produced mainly by longtime collaborator Harry Fraud.
Since releasing his first studio album, Montana has become highly sought-after as a guest artist. He’s collaborated with everyone from Jay-Z to Jennifer Lopez. He’s also dropped a slew of mixtapes, most recently the Max B hosted Wave Gods. In addition to music, Montana has begun to delve into acting, playing himself in the romantic comedy The Perfect Match, which hit theaters in May 2016. Next up for French Montana is his sophomore album, Mac & Cheese 4, set to be released in 2016.
His secret to success in the rap game? “I just pay attention to what people say,” offers Montana. “The people chose me. You can’t come out and say you hot. The people gotta choose you.” And time and time again, the people choose French Montana.