Watching him move from a distance, French Montana looks like the happiest man in America. He’s in Los Angeles smiling at MTV’s Video Music Awards, or earnestly celebrating with Rick Ross and company in New York for Maybach Music’s Self Made Volume 2 album release, taking time to dap-up the fans. He’s jamming on stage with Drake at Philadelphia’s Made In America festival, and dropping “Pop That” contests in seemingly every city he visits, reveling in the massive success of his infectious strip club anthem.
On this day, the Bronx-representer is in Diddy’s famed Daddy’s House recording studio in Midtown Manhattan. The Mase-featured outro to his highly anticipated Bad Boy debut, Excuse My French, is playing on a loop. Ciroc bottles on one of the monitors. Media members filing in out at the direction of his public relations team. Frenchy’s perfecting his album and appeasing the press – multitasking in a fashion fitting of a bourgeoning mogul who’s rise is the direct result of his relentless mixtape campaigns and storied DVD Cocaine City series. It’s easy to see why he just might be the Hip Hop’s hottest rapper.
In this video interview with HopHopDX, French Montana talks feeling like an “underdog,” Lana Del Rey, Mase, and why he’s more Baby than Lil Wayne.
French Montana Explains The Choice Of Features On Excuse My French
HipHopDX: When we spoke in January, one of the things you said was that you wanted [for your debut album, Excuse My French] was to work with “weird characters” like Cee-Lo and Coldplay. We hear now that Lana Del Rey, M.I.A., and the Weeknd are on the album.
French Montana: They’re not weird. They just have certain respect for their music. I feel like with certain people, it’s not about the money. Certain people just love music. Somebody like me, you might give me a bag big enough, I don’t care if you’re doing Merengue…I feel like, working with those kind of people shows that they really love my music and I can appreciate that.
DX: Let’s take Lana Del Rey, for example. How did that collaboration come about?
French Montana: That one was a Cool & Dre beat and they did a hook. We’re still working on that one. The Weeknd one is already done. The M.I.A. one is already done. [The Lana Del Rey] song is me, her, and Wiz Khalifa. We’re still waiting.
French Montana Explains Evolution From Cocaine City To Major Label Star
DX: I think a large part of [your fan base] comes off the strength of your Cocaine City DVD series. Is this going to a surprise for them hear Lana Del Rey, M.I.A., The Weeknd?
French Montana: Nope. I feel like it’s bigger than what we come from. I feel like if you’re only doing things for where you come from, then you’re not really going nowhere. I feel like you make it to that level so you can expand. The hood is only this small compared to where your music can go. It’s a big world out there.
DX: How did you have to expand when approaching a track with three people that normally wouldn’t be associated with the name French Montana? Was it different than the music you’ve come to be defined by?
French Montana: That’s the thing. You’re not changing. You just do what you do and they do what they do and it will come together. Two worlds come together and make it one. I just feel like if I change and try to sound like them, what’s the purpose of me doing a song with them? I just felt like you mix the hood with whatever they’ve got going on. I feel like that’s the beautiful part about it, you know.
DX: When you’re putting together a record with someone like Mase, for example. You’ve spoken about Mase being on the record over the past few weeks. Is there a different type of pressure that comes when you’re rocking with someone that means so much to Hip Hop?
French Montana: Nah. You know, Mase still look like he’s 19 [years old]. He still raps the same way. Ain’t nothing changed. I was a fan, so, me working with him was a blessing. I just got with him and made sure he blessed my album. Give it some good luck. He did the outro for me and I think we’re gonna have a song on the album, so I’m just waiting.
DX: Let’s run this down real quick. So far you have confirmed Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne…
French Montana: Wiz Khalifa, Max B, [Diddy], Coke Boys, Chinx Drugs, M.I.A., The Weeknd. A bunch of people, man. Jeremih, [Fabolous]. We’ve got a bunch of people on there.
DX: When I hear these names and I think about “Pop That” being #4 on the Hip Hop/R&B countdown…
French Montana: It’ll be #1 real soon.
French Montana Explains Building Relationships With Artists Like Drake Before His Deal
DX: I believe it. Especially with that video. That sounds like reason you signed to Bad Boy. To me, the product of all of that. The access that you have to certain artists…
French Montana: Nah. [Those] are my own relationships. Bad Boy [Records] didn’t help me get relationships with nobody. I got with Puff because Puff is an icon in our era. You talk about somebody that’s $500,000,000 in and your brushing shoulders with him. It’s up to you to make the opportunity to work for you. Somebody like that needs somebody that’s already moving. A person is only going to help you if you help yourself. They’ll just show you the ropes and save you from making mistakes. It takes that person to make that happen. But those are my relationships. Rick Ross [is] my relationship. Drake. Because, you know, me on the come up, all those people were on the come up, too. So I kind of built my relationships with them.
DX: You actually mentioned that in the interview we did in January, that you felt like Bad Boy needed you where other labels just wanted to have you.
French Montana: Definitely. And I felt like wherever I went, I was gonna be good regardless. It just came because I felt like Bad Boy/Interscope needed me at the moment. Instead of going somewhere I just didn’t feel right being there at the moment. Maybe in another year or two I might feel right being there. But right now I’m good because I’m gonna do what I do, regardless. It don’t matter who you’re down with.
DX: Over the past 10 months since the announcement that you were signed, what is something that you learned about how Bad Boy and [Diddy] do business that you didn’t expect or that surprised you?
French Montana: You learn a lot. It’s hard to say. You just got to take it and put your own twist to it and make it work for you. If you think about it, Puff wasn’t making no music over the past two years and still came out #1 in the Fall [with Press Play]. You do the math. I want to be like that when I wake up one day and be like, “You know, I don’t wanna rap today” and still be #1 in the Fall. That means a lot to me. That’s the kind of dude I want to be. I’m not a [Lil] Wayne. I’m more like a [Birdman]. I want to be like that – somebody that’s good with the business and good with the Rap. I want to be Kanye [West]. I want to be Jay-Z. I just want to be good with business and make sure that one day if I don’t want to rap, [I don’t have to].
DX: What’s the biggest misconception you think there is about the image of French Montana? The brand, French Montana?
French Montana: I don’t think there’s none. I just feel like when you come from where I come from you’re always gonna be the underdog. I feel like nobody expects you to do what you’re gonna do. So, when we do it it’s like you smacked them in the face. Nobody expects me to have the best album to come out in a long time out of New York. Nobody expected nothing now that we’re doing. Nobody expected Coke Boys to be the biggest movement. Nobody expected Chinx Drugs to have the biggest record in New York right now. Nobody expected nothing we’re doing. But guess what, if you watch TV or put on any kind of awards, you see all kinds of funny shit going on. But there ain’t no body work.
When I was coming up watching the game, you see people putting out work. You see people putting out mixtapes. You watching people grow. Nowadays it’s a person just comes out and they land on top and you’re like, “What did you do? I can’t name two [songs].” It’s like that. You can’t be mad at nobody. It’s just is the way it is now.
DX: I love “Pop That” video. I’ll watch the “Pop That” video and then I’ll watch the behind the scenes [of the “Pop That” video] and then I’ll watch the “Pop That” video and then I’ll watch the behind the scenes again. I really love this video. It’s a great song. But I love the video.
French Montana: Thank you, man.
DX: I saw you at Sin City [for Maybach Music’s Self Made Volume 2 listening]. Then I saw you at Made In America and come out and rock with Drake. Every time I see you I think that it’s got to be so much fun to be French Montana right now. [You’re] always smiling. [You’re] always having a good time. [You] look you like you’re enjoying every second that you get.
French Montana: That’s how you’ve got to be. You can’t be frustrated. I feel like that’s how a lot of rappers fell off. Once you sign, you might not be comfortable with things that’s happening with your label or whoever you’re down with. I feel like a lot of artists take it out on their self by not working no more, thinking they’re hurting the label and they’re only hurting themselves. A lot of people fall into that category. I feel like you’ve got to know what you’re doing, decisions you make, and know that you’re the only person that can make yourself happy doing this shit. It’s always gonna be stressed out. Everyday you wake up, you try to get bigger. It never stops. You’ve just got to control it as an artist.
DX: What’s the most difficult thing about being French Montana?
French Montana: I don’t even know. I’m just here. I don’t be sitting there thinking about that shit like that. I just make music and that shit speaks for myself. Certain people take that shit too serious. I’m just here. I could be doing a lot of worse things, be in a lot of worst places. I’m here. I’m making music. I’m traveling. All my people are in position. They’re making good music. Just trying to keep it balanced is the biggest part. That’s all it is. I’m blessed. We’re blessed. I can’t complain.
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