When it comes to artists with a story to tell, French Montana has to be near the head of the pack. From being born in Morocco, to the streets of the Bronx, selling street DVDs, his friendship with the now incarcerated Max B, his new affiliations with Bad Boy and Maybach Music Group, French Montana has a compelling back story. French has either worked with your favorite artists or their boss, so one could assume French would have a lot to say on his official debut, Excuse My French. Assuming such would be setting yourself up for a major disappointment. If affiliations and features could make an album, Excuse My French would be near classic. However, the results of the excessive collaborations, along with French’s limited subject matter, and lack of lyrical ability or overall direction make for a very bad introduction.
Of the 19 tracks on Excuse My French, French goes solo on six, making the album feel like more of a compilation than a solo project. And on those six tracks, French fails to stand out. “Once In A While,” which lists Max B as a feature, although he only speaks via a taped phone call, features French rapping, “Getting shot up, then he got up / Came back, then he lit the spot up / Homie hit the chart up / Morrocan boy, you sloppy boy / Three chains on, I be rocky boy / Packs out the lobby boy…” The drums, and Kanye West sample (“This what ya’ll all been waiting for, ain’t it?”) give the song an epic vibe, like it’s the beginning of something great. For what it’s worth, the track is probably the second highest point of the album. Genrally, French falls victim to repetition both through the course of the album and on individual songs. It’s generally accepted that judged solely on the merits of bar-for-bar rhyme schemes, similes and metaphors, French would rate out as a terrible rapper. But this hasn’t prevented French or peers such as Waka Flocka Flame from attaining a certain amount of commercial success and respect from peers that can actually, you know, rap. So by what basis should listeners judge French, when most of his verses play out like extended choruses? Perhaps that’s a rhetorical question for each individual listener.
On “Gifted” French spits, “I be gifted when I’m faded, faded all the time / I thought they’d love me when I made it, niggas hated all the time / It’s a dirty game, try to find a bitch, maybe get married / It’s like pissin’ in the freezer, tryna make canaries…” Such lazy rhymes unfortunately aren’t limited to French, as “Trap House” finds Rick Ross serving up the following:
“I’m a boss motherfucka / Pull up to the club, just to floss motherfucker / On a soft motherfucka / Rich motherfucka / All the whips foreign, take ya bitch motherfucka / Suck a dick motherfucka / I’m the shit motherfucka…”
Nicki Minaj ventures into similar territory on “Freaks” offering the uninspired #hashtag rhyme, “Big fat pussy…Mufasa.” In and of themselves, none of these errors are cardinal sins. In fact, the artists in question have comitted them on several occasions. And the gold-selling “Pop That” proves there is an audience for French Montana and his many collaborators. Records like “Freaks” and “F*** What Happens Tonight” have a much more Caribbean feel (due to the Chaka Demus and the Pliers sample and Mavado hook respectively). While, “Bust it Open” and “Pop That,” have a much more Southern feel. The reach to other markets seems to work on “Pop That,” but it doesn’t work as well on the other records, whether it be the cringe-inducing Mavado hook on “F*** What Happens Tonight,” which nearly ruins great verses from Scarface and Ace Hood. Ironically, the highest point of the album is “We Go Wherever We Want,” if for nothing other than the chemistry of a “C.R.E.A.M.” sample (courtesy of producers Vinylz and Allen Ritter) combined with a Raekwon feature.
Excuse My French comes off as extremely formulaic. The use of recognizable samples, the go-to features of the day (Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd, two Lil Wayne features, three Rick Ross features), the attempts to cover all markets and demographics, give the album a forced feel. While some of the records either have, or will make their run in the clubs—strip clubs specifically—listening to Excuse My French in its entirety is an extremely strenuous task at best. While excessive tales of flossing, the streets, and misogyny are nothing new to Hip Hop, the complete lack of creativity those subjects are executed with on this project, whether it be lyrically or instrumentally, make it a hard listen.