Basketball and rap are synonymous. I know. You must have heard me say that a thousand times. Fact is it’s true. Knicks basketball and hip-hop in New York are so jointed together you would think they were Siamese twins. Fans have salivated for New York’s return to the forefront in the basketball world. With potential permeating through the city after the Carmelo trade, Knicks fans are finally seeing some results.
On the rap front, the rise of several rappers on the New York scene has hip-hop junkies smiling because Gotham City is back. One of those rappers happens to be French Montana.
With his braggadocios swag and ability to make party bangers, he has garnered notable features such as the cover of Fader, bring crowned as a XXL Freshman, and just being dubbed as one of the faces to bring New York back along with A$AP Rocky.
After teasing fans with his regional hit “Shot Caller,” he upped the ante and loaded up the next time around with infectious singles such as “Pop That” featuring Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Drake, and “Freaks” featuring the bodacious Nicki Minaj.
With the support of the genre’s biggest honchos in Rick Ross and Diddy, French Montana seems on the right path to victory and making Gotham City proud. In this interview with Dime, French talks about any pressure he has with his debut album Excuse My French, mentorship from Diddy and Ross, being the face of New York, and why he believes he’s the Kevin Durant of rap.
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Dime: New York has the legends. They have Nas, Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G. to name a few. XXL just named you and A$AP Rocky as the new faces of New York. You’re going to be headlining Summer Jam. Talk about the pressure you’re going to face with Excuse My French being your debut album and being the cornerstone of New York.
French Montana: I feel like with me there’s no pressure. It’s just me being me. I don’t really feed into all that. You know bringing New York back and being the King of New York. It’s just me being me. I just feel like if I keep doing that, I’ll be straight. I feel like the moment you start feeding into all that, you just start getting big headed and you try to be somebody you’re not.
Dime: Not a lot of artists could say they are running with the power players such as a Bad Boy in Diddy and a Maybach in Rick Ross. Talk about those two serving as your mentors and also the best advice each one gave to you.
FM: I feel like it all happened out of love. I feel like with those kind of people like Ross & Puff, I feel like money doesn’t mean nothing because they have money. They ain’t just gonna put their name behind something that just ‘cus you know? With them it was just more out of love and the situation being right at the same time. So that’s how that happened. Also being surrounded by people like that teaches you that it’s more than just the music. That’s why I feel like I’m happy with my album. I’m happy with the energy it’s bringing around. I’m happy with everything that has to do with it.
Dime: It’s funny. A couple of years ago you were running with Max B dropping mixtape after mixtape. Talk about the transition of being a mixtape artist to now being a mainstream artist.
FM: You know you can’t keep doing the same thing you were doing last year. You gotta graduate to new levels you know what I’m saying? You can’t keep playing basketball forever without going to the league. You know what I’m saying? There’s going to come a certain time where you’re like, “You know what? You’re too hot for these streets. You gotta graduate.” And that’s what happened. That’s what happened with me. I got too hot for the streets. It was like now what’s the next level? There wasn’t a thing that I didn’t do in these streets. The shows, to the songs on the chart without even being signed, that’s just how it goes.
Dime: You may have dropped 15-20 mixtapes.
FM: Yeah. I wish I could have dropped 100. I just love making music man. Music lasts forever. I just love making music.
Dime: That’s crazy. By dropping so many mixtapes in the past, what was your thought process and writing process when carving up your debut album Excuse My French? Was it the same formula you normally followed or was it a different direction you took knowing that would serves as your major debut?
FM: I just feel like I perfected it a little better by having all of the experience and being to like sit down with somebody like – because during my album Puff would come in and give his opinion and his point of view of things. Ross would do the same thing. Me and Harve Pierre were in the studio. Chinx Drugs was there. I had people in the studio all day and night while I worked. I felt like that right there made me perfect my album.