French Montana Makes It Pop

“Money comin’, money goin’—ain’t like you can take it wit’ ya,” Drake raps over the relentlessly vicious Hard-NRG skitter-beat of French Montana’s “Pop That”—and that’s exactly how it sounds: like the last kegger before succumbing to the apocalypse.  The track that’s already considered summer’s unofficial fire-thrower—accompanied by a posse video shot over Memorial Day weekend in Miami, due to debut any day now—is Montana’s first foray into the mainstream, courtesy of the cut’s Young Money and Maybach Music tie-in verses (by superstars Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne and Drake). While his street singles, “Shot Caller” and “Everything’s A Go” moved in mysterious ways around Hot 97 and, they never quite hit like this: only reminding rap fans of Bad Boy Records’ (to which French is signed) heyday of Craig Mack boom-bap—and just how much New York’s hip-hop sound has changed since the 1990s.



Diddy’s been trying, to varying degrees, to replicate the success of his original Bad Boy roster ever since Mase committed himself to Christ, and thus far, Montana seems to be leading Combs’ “Bad Boy 2.0” pseudo-political run. But with resurgence comes comparison, which may not be what Combs ultimately wants, considering he once helmed one of the most talented MCs of our time, The Notorious B.I.G.

Biggie, Montana is not, yet it’s apparent it’s not something he’s trying for. As the first single off his major label debut, “Pop That” is more “Rumpshaker” than “Juicy,” continuing on the resonance and flavor of the first Bad Boy era’s chart competitor: dance rap. The single, produced by Lee of The Amazins, borrows its driving force from a repetitive sample lifted off the 2 Live Crew (of “Me So Horny” fame) Southern-raunch classic, “Pop That P***y.”

Replacing the lead-y grit of the original sample-centric sound of early ’90s Bad Boy, Montana has sufficiently upstaged his original releases with this decisive move. “We pop a Molly, she bust it open,” French spits before Ross goes in: another reminder of how New York’s sound doesn’t just come from mobsters and slinging crack anymore and can sound, to much success, just like their Southern strip-club counterparts. The Moroccan-born, Bronx-raised rapper isn’t new to collaborating with Southerners—he’s released songs with Three Six Mafia and Waka Flocka, amongst others, in the past, leading to his eventual deal with Bad Boy. His biggest mentor, though, is New York’s troubled Max B., who for some time released material via Harlem’s Dipset conglomerate.

“People gonna really love what we did with my brother, Max B., on this record [Excuse My French],” Montana told Interview last week while he was in Buffalo, NY, for a stop on Drake’s Club Paradise tour. “It’s ‘motivation’ music. It’s ‘get up and go’ music. We bringing New York back, but, with people from all over. It’s not just New York no more.”

And as heard on “Pop That,” New York reclaims its hip-hop supremacy by way of the South. Rick Ross’ interest in the rapper is part of French’s rising popularity. “Ross is part of my crew. He’s one of the realest people I’ve met. He’s definitely one of my mentors. No question about it,” he asserts. Before signing with Diddy, rumors flew of the rapper signing to Ross’ Maybach. But before that, Montana was attached to Akon’s Konvict label. “Nothing ever came of that, because we never had the paperwork,” Montana explained.

Montana’s still putting the finishing touches on Excuse My French, which is slated for release late this summer, and features collaborations with The Weeknd, Cassie, and Rick Ross and Diddy executively producing the project. You can catch French on tour this month with J.Cole, Drake, and others (June 14 in Saratoga Springs, NY, and June 16 at Jones Beach).