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French Montana

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French Montana
French Montana at MTV Africa Music Awards 2014-Durban-20140607.jpg
French Montana performing at the 2014 MAMAs
Background information
Birth name Karim Kharbouch
Born (1984-11-09) November 9, 1984 (age 30)
Rabat, Morocco[1]
Origin South Bronx, New York, U.S.
Genres Hip hop
Occupation(s)
Years active 2002–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website frenchmontanamusic.com

Karim Kharbouch (born November 9, 1984), better known by his stage name French Montana, is an American rapper, entrepreneur, former videographer, and hip hop socialite. Born in Morocco, his family emigrated to the US when he was 13 years old.[2][3] He is the founder and CEO of Coke Boys Music, and its predecessor Cocaine City Records. In 2012, he signed a joint-venture recording deal with Bad Boy Records and Maybach Music Group. Montana has been known for his frequent collaborations with producer Harry Fraud, and with rapper Max B before his conviction. More recently he is known for his collaborations with Rick Ross, Diddy and his MMG and Bad Boy labelmates along with his Coke Boys which include the late Chinx, Lil Durk, and his brother Zack.

French made his mixtape debut in 2007, and released his debut studio album Excuse My French on May 21, 2013.[4] In 2003, he survived a gunshot to the head.[5][6][7] Allegedly blackballed by radio and media in his earlier career stemming from his stint with Max B.[8][9] In 2010, he had his breakthrough with "Choppa Choppa Down" which became a regional hit in clubs and radio throughout the South. By 2012, his single "Shot Caller" would be one of the most played tracks on urban contemporary radio in the country.[10] His most successful commercial single "Pop That" remains a popular hit on club and summertime radio playlists to date. In 2014, French Montana was dating Khloe Kardashian, and the couple would become the frequent subject of tabloids and celebrity gossip. The couple formally broke up in 2015; French has also been linked to rapper Trina and actress Sanaa Lathan. Best known for his mixtapes, club hits, and feature collaborations, he has been called titles from "King of Mixtapes" to "King of Features".[11]

Early life

French Montana was born Karim Kharbouch on November 9, 1984 in Rabat, Morocco.[1] He grew up at the family estate outside Casablanca where he lived for the first 13 years of his life.[12] Growing up, he was consumed with soccer and rap, describing them as his two favorite childhood hobbies.[10]

In 1996, at the age of 13, Karim left Morocco with his mother, his father Abdela and younger brother Zack for New York City, where they settled in the South Bronx.[12] Speaking only his native languages Arabic and French when he first arrived, he learned English in the streets and in the Bronx high schools of Lehman and Roosevelt.[12] After struggling for 2 years, his father decided they would move back to Casablanca, when his mother opted to stay back with the kids citing lack of opportunities back home.[12] His mother was pregnant with his youngest brother Ayoub at the time, who was born in the US shortly after his father departed for Morocco.[12] With 3 kids, including an infant, his mother was dependent on welfare for financial support.[12] Karim soon found himself the primary breadwinner for the family.[12]

Music career

2002–10: Cocaine City Records

French Montana began his career as a battle rapper in his teens under the name Young French. In 2002, French and close friend Cams created a series of street DVDs called Cocaine City, drawing inspiration from the Smack DVD series popular at the time.[7][13] The series featured interviews with major and upcoming rappers, personalities ranging from basketball players to drug dealers, and a focus on street music and hip hop beefs.[7][9][12] Initially as Young French, he used the DVDs as a means of showcasing his talent as an underground artist, including in it his own original music, freestyles, and collaborations with other artists. The first volume in the series featured Pee Wee Kirkland, Remy Ma among others.[7] What started out as a medium for developing an audience, quickly grew into one of the top-selling street DVDs.[13] The series ran for eight years between 2002-2010, totaling 14 volumes, and several spinoff films. Based out of the South Bronx, French ran the series with the help of childhood friends including Brock, Droop Pop and Cheeze, who went on to become the first rappers that formed the Coke Boys.[14][15]

In 2003, French suffered a gunshot to the head when he was confronted by two armed gunmen as he was leaving a recording studio in the Bronx.[5][6][7] The incident resulted in one of the gunmen dead, in what is believed to be a case of "friendly fire" by one assailant against the other.[5][16] French was taken to the hospital where he survived after having spent several weeks in treatment.[7][16] French came to find out he was set up by someone close to him and his circle.[5]

In an interview with Complex magazine, French revealed that he had began pursuing rap seriously by 2005.[7] On September 7, 2007, French Montana released his debut mixtape French Revolution Vol. 1. He released his second mixtape Live From Africa on May 3, 2008. Around this time, French Montana and neighboring Harlem-based rapper Max B began increasingly collaborating and associating with one another.

Max B and Jim Jones beef

According to interviews, French and Max B always shared a common group of friends and associates.[17] However, due to French's own problems with Jim Jones, and Max being signed to his ByrdGang at the time, the two had yet to collaborate.[17] This would soon change as the two would become embroiled in one of the more infamous street beefs in New York underground hip hop.

Background

Albeit widely attributed to Jim Jones' disdain towards French for his footage in Cocaine City Vol. 4 (2006),[18][19] depicting Jones and his Dipset crew being beaten and driven-out during a brawl in Rucker Park, by the Brooklyn-based Junior MAFIA associated with the late Notorious BIG.[18][19] According to French, his personal problems with Jim Jones stems from his claims that Jones was publicly insinuating having a hand with the people responsible for the shooting targeting French.[20] In a 2009 interview with VladTV, French claimed that Jones – by then well-known for his numerous feuds and provocations – was using the late-2003 incident to increase his reputation in the streets.[20]

Max B, having served a seven year sentence from 1997 to 2005, was introduced to Jim Jones through their mutual friend Cam'ron.[21] In 2006, Jones formed ByrdGang alongside members Max B, Stack Bundles (of Riot Squad), and Mel Matrix. According to Max B, his beef with Jones stems from his allegations he was forced into a contract which offered him inadequate pay and no recognition of his contributions which included writing hooks, verses and melodies for Jim Jones during their stint.[22] He also alleges he was paid $300 for live shows where Jones earned in the range of $10–15,000.[22]

The feud

Max B left ByrdGang by early-2008, however, his contract with ByrdGang restricted him from releasing music commercially without proceeds going through the label.[21] By then, Jim Jones had garnered a streak of feuds with rappers, ranging from Junior MAFIA to would-be Jay-Z affiliate Tru Life. Tru Life had already appeared in several interviews, including one on Cocaine City Vol. 8 (2007),[23] showing off two Dipset chains he claimed to have snatched off of Jones.[23] Max B's affiliation with French Montana and their mutual beef with Jim Jones was a very public one – resulting in numerous back-and-forth "diss" videos, interviews, confrontations and accusations – which appeared on street DVDs such as Cocaine City, Smack, Come Up, Sub-0, as well as websites such as HipHopBeef.com and WorldStarHipHop.com which were just beginning to gain a foothold. The feud also involved Jim Jones affiliate Hell Rell,[24][25] and at differing points various rappers from Dipset or ByrdGang.

French Montana and Max B would go on to release their debut collaborative mixtape Coke Wave – which included productions from Dame Grease, Young Los, J. Cardim and others – on February 6, 2009. The run up to which, and immediate after, was marred by tension and confrontation between the feuding sides. Notable bits from the series of back-and-forth videos include, French and Max B mocking Hell Rell's standing in relation to Jones,[24][26] and Rell firing back;[25][27] Max B's allegations of infidelity by Jones' wife Chrissy; Max B recalling an off-camera altercation with Jones in the street in late-2008;[28][29] footage of French and Max's crew confronting Jones at his Manhattan studio followed by a standoff with police in December (Cocaine City Vol. 12);[30] and a brawl between Max and Jones' camps at a club in Brooklyn in January 2009.[31]

February would be a busy month of releases, as both rappers dropped their next solo mixtapes that same month. Max B's mixtape Quarantine was released on February 23, while French released his fourth mixtape The Laundry Man on February 24, 2009. This would be the first of French's tapes to be hosted by later-frequent DJ collaborators Evil Empire and Connecticut's Big Mike. The two artists resumed concentrating on their solo records, until the release of their second collaborative mixtape Coke Wave 2 in November that year.

Allegations of blackballing

Throughout their stint, French Montana and Max B would allege being "blackballed" by radio and media.[8][32][33] In a September 25, 2008 video on WSHH,[34] they would go on to accuse Jim Jones – established as a mainstream artist with Dipset at the time – for using his influence to further dissuade labels and websites from covering the rappers.[34] As a response to being blackballed, the two would rely on grassroots and online methods of promotion. French Montana – who had a background in Cocaine City – and Max B, would utilize outlets such as street DVDs and hip hop websites to promote themselves and their respective projects. Since the early-2000s, street DVDs had emerged as a lucrative underground medium providing a "behind the scenes" look into the business and politics of major and upcoming rappers. By the mid-to-late 2010s, websites such as WorldStarHipHop.com and Uncut-RawTV.com had taken on the same spot; consequently, marking the decline of street DVDs as an outdated and non-lucrative format.

Another tactic the two used to fight the alleged blackballing was to release a flood of music/mixtapes; becoming among the driving facets of the "Coke Wave" campaign. Within the span of 2009, the two rappers combined had released over a dozen mixtapes that year alone. The Coke Wave mixtape, and its sequal Coke Wave 2, were accompanied by DVD films which included music videos, in-studio footage, skits, and videos revolving around their beef with background commentary.[35] Coke Wave 2 which was released subsequent to Max B's sentencing, further included footage related to his trial and commentary on his legal situation the camp was embroiled in. French would go on to touch on the subject of having been blackballed in a number of interviews following his mainstream breakout.[32][33] In a 2012 interview from prison, Max B touched on the subject noting,

I was completely blackballed, my songs on the radio. I couldn’t help myself but I was always able to help French do what he wanted to do [...] if I had to blow trial, at least I know a n**ga out there holding it down. We was a part of something together. I’m talking to French; we communicate a couple times a week [...] he real wavy right now [...] Get the Coke Wave, listen to it.[8]

French would go on to be snubbed by XXL's Freshman Class of 2011, but was eventually featured on their Freshman Class of 2012. At the time of his inclusion – on the March 2012 edition of the magazine – he had already been signed to Bad Boy Records following the success of his single "Shot Caller", and had just signed a joint-venture between Bad Boy and Maybach Music Group. During an appearance on MTV's RapFix Live in August 2012, French told host Sway Calloway he almost turned down the cover opportunity, "I kinda like wasn't gonna do it, because I felt like I deserved it two years ago, last year."[9] The two also spoke on his former Cocaine City venture and how "his negative coverage of other MCs caused him to be blackballed in the industry."[9]

Harry Fraud and the Chinatown raid

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, close friend and producer Harry Fraud revealed first meeting French Montana during a recording session at a studio in Chinatown.[36] Fraud recalls recording a song for someone which French happened to have a guest feature on. In an unusual turn of events, the building was raided by police after a tip-off that there were counterfeit Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses being manufactured at the same building.[36] Having lost his studio spot, Fraud went on to form his own studio in Brooklyn, where the two "met and formed a bond".[36]

Harry Fraud, who hails from a musical family background and had interned at a recording studio,[37] was still unknown professionally at the time. The two would go on to release their first collaboration "New York Minute", featuring Jadakiss, off of French's fifth mixtape Mac Wit Da Cheese released on April 19, 2009.[38] Following its success, the two artist would go on to record "We Playin In The Wind" off of French's sixth mixtape The Laundry Man 2 released on June 29. With "New York Minute" still buzzing in the city, rapper Ma$e would approach French Montana to hop on the remix,[39] included in French's eighth mixtape Coke Wave 2 released in November. Since then, Harry Fraud's production has been a staple among French's music, and Fraud has since ventured out into working with various other artists. Fraud gained mainstream attention when his track with French Montana "Shot Caller" became one of the most added/played tracks on urban contemporary radio in 2011-2012.[10]

Gaby Acevedo and signing with Akon

In 2009, French Montana had signed a deal with Akon and his Konvict Music label.[40] The two would go on to appear in videos and interviews together, and collaborate on a series of tracks including their first single "Married to the Streets" on French's seventh mixtape Cocaine Konvicts released on September 25.[41][42] In later interviews, French would go on to reveal that he had a "shopping deal" with Akon for a six months to a year period.[7][43] "A shopping deal is when an artist takes a liking in you, and they try to take you to a label to get you signed. I was gonna go get signed to his label, but they were going through problems with Interscope. [As a result] my deal was over with him, so I went and did my own thing", claimed French in his 2012 interview with Complex.[7] Akon, whom French refers to as "big brother",[44] would continue to maintain a relationship with French, collaborating on songs together despite the unsuccessful deal between the two.

French had met Akon through their mutual friend Gaby Acevedo.[40][42] Acevedo was then-president of SRC Records – under founder and chairman Steve Rifkind — the label first responsible for breaking out artists such as Akon, David Banner, and Remy Ma, then a member of Fat Joe's Terror Squad.[42] Acevedo, whom French had befriended during his time working on the Cocaine City DVDs, had put his music on to Akon who then approached French inviting him to meet him in Florida.[40][42] Although the Akon deal was short-lived, Acevedo would eventually go on to become French's manager following his mainstream breakout. In 2012, with Rifkind leaving SRC's parent company Universal Music Group in September, the SRC imprint would close shop as well. With French's management deal with Mizay Entertainment having recently ended, Gaby Acevedo would postpone retirement to become his new manager, where he now spends his time on the road touring with French.[42]

2010–11: Choppa Choppa Down and Southern breakout

French released his tenth mixtape Coke Boys on September 15, 2010, which included collaborations with Three 6 Mafia, Gucci Mane, Akon, Fat Joe, fellow Coke Boys, among others.[45] The record which included the track "Choppa Choppa Down", featuring Waka Flocka Flame, would go on to become a hit among clubs and radio throughout the South.[46][47] Waka Flocka, who recently broken into the mainstream with his single "Hard In Da Paint" released on May 13, had recorded the song earlier that year while Gucci Mane was still in prison. An early remix to the song, featuring French Montana, was included in French's ninth mixtape Mac & Cheese 2 released earlier that year on May 6 and which also included collaborations with rising stars Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, Curren$y and Nipsey Hussle among others.[48] The two respective breakout tracks would kick off the start of a close relationship between French and Waka Flocka, where the two describe themselves as being "brothers".

Signing with Debra Antney

On November 18, 2010, XXL magazine reported on French Montana having signed with Atlanta-based management firm Mizay Entertainment, headed by Debra Antney.[49] Debra, who is Waka Flocka's mother, was also manager for Waka Flocka, Gucci Mane, OJ Da Juiceman, rising star Lex Luger and the 808 Mafia production team, and formerly Nicki Minaj prior to her mainstream breakout.[50][51] The music video for "Choppa Choppa Down",[52] which featured a Black Hawk Down theme, was released in late-January and included cameos from Gucci, Shawty Lo, DJ Holiday and members of Brick Squad Monopoly.[53][54] With the success of the Coke Boys mixtape and his recent management deal with Debra, French adopted a recurring trap influence among his music.

On February 15, French released his eleventh mixtape Mister 16: Casino Life, which featured productions from Fraud and Lex Luger among others, including his soon-to-be next hit "Shot Caller".[55] The tape's combination of hard trap beats alongside the more soulful beats – such as those of his New York producer Harry Fraud – would become a fixture among French's music. The latter sound being further explored in his twelfth mixtape Coke Boys 2 released on August 19, providing a softer break from his more robust tapes that year. Both records have been acclaimed for their production and hooks. French would continue on his increasing presence in the South, releasing his collaborative mixtape with Waka Flocka called Lock Out on December 14. That same month, he would release his long-awaited collaborative mixtape Cocaine Mafia with Memphis-based rappers Juicy J and Project Pat, released on December 20. This would be French's thirteenth and fourteenth mixtapes, respectively. With four records out in 2011, it would be his busiest year of releases since 2009. In a 2012 interview with Parle magazine, French revealed his deal with Mizay Entertainment as having been for a year and a half.[43]

Collaborating with Rick Ross

With French's growing buzz in the South, he was approached by Florida-based rapper Rick Ross who invited him to his studio.[39] French, who admits having been a fan of Ross' music, was invited to come "at like three in the morning" where he listened to his upcoming MMG collaborative album Self Made Vol. 1.[39] The two recorded a track for the album, while Ross hopped on the remix to "Choppa Choppa Down".[39] The new single, which also featured Wiz Khalifa, was released on April 28, 2011, with the music video coming out in June.[56] An earlier remix featuring Gucci Mane and Wiz Khalifa had been released on March 25. The collaboration would mark the start of French's relationship with Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group, prompting speculation whether French would be signing to the label.[39]

2011–12: Shot Caller and New York takeover

With French juggling between Atlanta and New York, his song "Shot Caller" off of the Casino Life record would gain traction on New York radio beginning mid-2011. During an on-air interview with Fat Joe on SiriusXM in October 2011, French would call in to praise close friend and fellow-Bronx rapper Fat Joe, revealing his role in helping to get "Shot Caller" on the airwaves.[57] Fat Joe, whom he refers to as "big brother", praised French's work ethic and revealed that French had been receiving offers from several major labels.[57]

Jim Jones bottle-throwing incident

On the night of August 5, 2011, Fat Joe was slated to host Funkmaster Flex's birthday party at Webster Hall. During his performance, Fat Joe brought out French Montana to perform on stage. Controversy erupted as Jim Jones and his entourage, who were reportedly on the adjacent balcony seats, began hurling bottles and glass at the performers.[58][59] The following day, videos of the incident were uploaded online, depicting French and his entourage facing a barrage of glass and liquor on stage, as they continued performing his rendition of "Hard In Da Paint" while facing the mentioned balcony with the crowd chanting along to it.[60][61] Some of the members on stage hurled debris back towards the balcony, as Jones and his entourage eventually exited the premises.[60]

Collaborating with Diddy

Fat Joe and Waka Flocka would go on to accompany French Montana in his video shoot for "Shot Caller" later that month in August. The song, which made reference to Diddy's 1997 hit "Its All About The Benjamins", would soon garner the interest of the Bad Boy mogul. On October 9, French announced Diddy and T.I. for the official remix to the song.[62] DJ Drama, who called it his favorite record, referred T.I. to jump on the remix.[62] Although the T.I. feature never came to fruition, the remix was released on November 24, and featured rappers Diddy and Rick Ross.

With "Shot Caller" already one of the most played tracks on New York radio, on stations such as Hot 97 and Power 105,[62] French was slated to appear on the upcoming episode of BET's 106 & Park on December 6,[63][44] where he would be debuting the music video and announcing the label he's signing with. Diddy would also appear that night as part of his "Bad Boy Takeover" campaign, whereon the two officially announced that French Montana had signed to Bad Boy Records.[63] Between 2011-2012, "Shot Caller" would become one of the most added/played tracks on urban contemporary radio in the country.[10] It was re-released as a single on January 10, and the music video for the remix was released in February, 2012. A second "NY Giants remix" premiered on Funkmaster Flex's radio show on January 6, celebrating the Giants' Superbowl win against the Patriots the day before.[64]

2012–present: Signing to Bad Boy and MMG

Having received offers from several labels, including Jay-Z's Roc Nation and Kanye's GOOD Music; on December 6 on BET, French Montana publicly announced signing with Bad Boy Records, an imprint of Interscope Records. In a subsequent interview with Billboard magazine, French revealed that had he not signed with Bad Boy that MMG would be his next choice.[65] However, on January 4, 2012, while in the studio with Rick Ross, the two announced French's new signing to a joint-venture between Bad Boy Records and Maybach Music Group, making him a part of both labels.[66][67] Both Ross and Diddy would be executive producing his debut studio album.[66][67]

Stay Schemin and Pop That

On January 6, the two dropped Ross' track "Stay Schemin" with rapper Drake. Notable for its memorable French and Ross "hook", the track would go on to be one of the biggest hits that year, oft-talked about for its Drake verse believed to be a "diss" towards rapper Common at the time. French Montana was featured on XXL's Freshman Class of 2012 alongside Future, Kid Ink, Danny Brown, Macklemore, Don Trip, Hopsin, Iggy Azalea, Roscoe Dash, and Bad Boy labelmate MGK.[68][69] French later revealed to host Sway Calloway on MTV's RapFix Live in August 2012 that he almost turned down the cover opportunity feeling he deserved it a year or two prior.[9]

French's first single from the upcoming album, "Pop That" was released on June 15, featuring Ross, Drake and Lil Wayne. The song would be one of the biggest hits that year, and a still-popular club and summer anthem since. It is French's most successful commercial single, having been certified "platinum" by the RIAA, and peaking at #2 on Billboard's Hot R&B and Rap charts and #36 on the Hot 100. While initially expected for a release in July 2012, French's album went through several pushbacks until its finalized release date of May 21, 2013. The date which happened to coincide with the birthdays of Max B and famous labelmate the late Notorious BIG. In the meantime, French had released his fifteenth mixtape Coke Boys 3 on April 13, 2012, which included collaborations with fellow Coke Boys Chinx Drugz and Cheeze, alongside the likes of Ross, Akon, Kevin Gates and Wale. Notable tracks among others include, a rare collaboration between French, Chinx and the late Stack Bundles on "Tap That", and "Headquarters" featuring Red Café and Chinx, the music video for which premiered on July 21.

The Homecoming and Mac & Cheese 3

In September 2012, French Montana was featured on the cover of the 82nd issue of The FADER magazine,[12] who joined French on his first homecoming to Morocco after seventeen years since his family moved to the United States in 1996. The article describes his journey through Morocco, meeting his mother's family, and eventually his estranged father who isn't made aware of his son's coming arrival.[12] French was accompanied by manager Gaby Acevedo, and youngest brother Ayoub. The piece ends with an emotional reunion between the father and the two sons, including Ayoub who had previously never met their father before.[12]

French marked the end of the year with his sixteenth mixtape Mac & Cheese 3 released on November 20, 2012.[70] which included collaborations with Prodigy, Fabolous, Future, Fat Joe, Ma$e, Rico Love and Trina among others. Acclaimed for its production and track selection, it would go on to be among the most downloaded mixtapes of all time.[70] With several productions from Young Chop, the music video to "Devil Wants My Soul" premiered on November 5, and an in-studio video of "Ocho Cinco" on November 26. Both songs would go viral, prompting another music video for "Ocho Cinco" – featuring Diddy, MGK, Red Café and King Los – released in February, 2013. The song was also included as a bonus track on the upcoming Excuse My French album. The run up to which included further video releases, including the Black Metaphor produced "Sanctuary" on February 3, Swizz Beatz produced "Diamonds" featuring Ross and J. Cole on February 17, and Fraud produced "State of Mind" on May 15 and "Intro (Only If For A Night)" on November 30, among others. Since the tapes' premiere on DatPiff, it would reach the 500K "double platinum" rating by first month, and presently stands at a "diamond" rating with over 1.4 million downloads on that site alone.[70]

Excuse My French

In January 2013, French announced his second single "Freaks", featuring Nicki Minaj, from his upcoming album to be a remake of Lil Vicious' 1994 song of the same name.[71] The song premiered on Hot 97 on February 13, with the music video coming out on March 3. The remix, featuring an additional Ross, Wale, Mavado and DJ Khaled, was released on April 25. A bonus track "Marble Floors" was released earlier on December 4, 2012, featuring Ross, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz with production from Mike WiLL Made It. It would fast become a viral hit, only to be outdone by French's third single "Ain't Worried About Nothin" released on April 15, 2013. The music video premiered on May 7, and would be the last before the release of his album on May 21. Subsequent music videos included, "Trap House" featuring Ross and Birdman released on September 23, "Gifted" featuring The Weeknd on October 15, "Once In A While" featuring Max B on November 18, and "Paranoid" featuring Johnny May Cash on January 20, 2014, among others.

His first solo single ever "Ain't Worried About Nothin" would be a hit on radio, and a remix featuring Ross, Diddy and Snoop Dogg was released on October 4, and a second remix featuring Miley Cyrus on October 14. Upon its release, Excuse My French was met with mixed reviews from music critics.[72] It fared better commercially, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 56,000 copies in the United States.[73] The album also featured collaborations with Raekwon, Scarface, Ne-Yo and Jeremih among others.

Following the album release, French announced signing Chicago-based rapper Lil Durk to his Coke Boys. French, who is close to producer Young Chop, had previously collaborated with Durk on his recent mixtape and with Chief Keef on his debut album the year before. Durk, Chinx and Young Chop would go on to appear in the music video to "Paranoid", featuring Chop's brother Johnny May Cash. The song is inspired by French's brushes with death, including the late-2003 incident where he survived a gunshot to the head. Durk would go on to collaborate on several records with French in the coming years, starting with the remix to Durk's breakout single "Dis Ain't What U Want" featuring French, Ross and Meek Mill, released on November 27, 2013.

French appeared as a featured artist on several singles in 2013, most notably Joe Budden's "NBA" with Wiz Khalifa released on March 26; ASAP Ferg's "Work (Remix)" – alongside Schoolboy Q, ASAP Rocky and Trinidad James – on May 14; Canadian singer Massari's "Shisha" on May 21; and Will.i.am's "Feelin Myself" with Miley Cyrus and Wiz Khalifa on November 26, among others.

Pushbacks and comebacks

Despite several pushbacks, French released his seventeenth mixtape Coke Boys 4 on January 2, 2014,[74] which included collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, MGK, Mally Mall, newcomers Lil Durk and MeetSims, and others. The music video for the "Paranoid (Remix)" – featuring Diddy, Ross, Meek, Durk, Chinx and Jadakiss – was released on April 13. Subsequent music videos included, "88 Coupes" featuring Jadakiss released on May 15, "God Body" featuring Chinx on May 28, and "Money Bag" with Durk and Chinx on June 23. In a January 2014 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, French revealed that his next Mac & Cheese would be a studio album instead of a mixtape.[75]

In 2014, French collaborated with Diddy on Ross' track "Nobody" released on February 19. Rick Ross' remake of the late Notorious BIG's 1997 song "You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)", featured an eerie chorus by French and interludes of Diddy in a live motivational rant. The song was inspired by Ross' brush against death the year before, when his Rolls-Royce came under repeated gunshot fire while driving through Fort Lauderdale on January 28, 2013.[76] In a bizarre series of events, French Montana would experience a similar but unrelated event months later when his convoy came under fire on March 1 in Philadelphia during his "Excuse My French" tour after French had finished performing a show hours earlier.[77][78] The music video premiered on February 27, 2014. Albeit met with mixed to positive reviews, the song would be a hit and was re-released as a single on March 3. French joined Ross for a live performance on the Late Night with Seth Meyers on March 5.[79]

French Montana would collaborate with fellow-Bronx native Jennifer Lopez on her comeback single "I Luh Ya Papi". The song premiered on LA's Power 106 in March 5, and was released as a single on March 11, with the music video coming out two days later. The single was an international hit, and among the most added/played tracks on rhythmic contemporary radio in Canada. French also appeared in the music video to Fat Joe's single "Stressin", featuring Jennifer Lopez, which premiered in October later that year. French joined Rick Ross on Puff Daddy's comeback single "Big Homie" from his upcoming album MMM. With a guest verse by Ross and ad-libs by French, the single was released on March 24, with the music video premiering on March 31. French Montana would go on to join Ross, Meek and veteran Jay-Z on DJ Khaled's summer hit "They Don't Love You No More". The single was released on March 29, with the music video coming out on June 22 that year.

On July 17, teasers to the movie The Purge: Anarchy were released featuring music from French's upcoming single "Don't Panic". A month earlier, Instagram photos of the two showed French with then-girlfriend Khloe Kardashian on set with matching masks on, prompting speculation whether she was in the coming video. Following weeks of promotion, the single was released on August 12. The music video, which retained the dark themes of the movie while maintaining its catchy DJ Mustard character, became a viral hit. The couple had created bit of a stir two months earlier, on June 2, when Khloe posted an IG photo of the two on set of "They Don't Love You No More", depicting French holding a rifle in his arms with Khloe seated next to him with a bottle of liquor to her mouth. The remix to "Don't Panic", featuring Jeremih and Chris Brown, was released on October 14.

French Montana would join Remy Ma on DJ Khaled's "They Don't Love You No More (Remix)" released on August 2. Khaled's former Terror Squad affiliate and Bronx-native Remy Ma had just been released from prison the day prior. The three appeared together in the music video which premiered on August 23.[80] This was her first musical comeback since her incarceration six years earlier. French would go on to collaborate with Ashanti on her second single "Early In The Morning" released on October 14 off of her comeback album Braveheart. This would be Ashanti's first album since her last six years ago.

French released his second single "Bad Bitch", featuring Jeremih, on December 25, with the music video premiering on February 23, 2015. In late-October, French had announced his "Set It Off" tour with Jeremih, running up to his expected Mac & Cheese: The Album release in December. With the album eventually pushed back to next year; in its place, French released his collaborative EP with Harry Fraud, Mac & Cheese: The Appetizer on December 12, 2014. His eighteenth mixtape, The Appetizer marked a shift away from French's usual feature-heavy records. With Fraud's signature sample-heavy production, French blurred the lines between rap and R&B in a manner not unlike that of Max B, and with subject matter ranging from difficult life-decisions, women, addiction and memories of his bygone friendship with his now-incarcerated rap soulmate.

Personal life

French Montana speaks several languages, including English, in addition to his native Arabic and French.[12][81] He cites being a father as one of his driving inspirations.[81] French has described himself as being passionate about fashion, and states his style has evolved as he's progressed in his career, now being able to afford high-end brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, YSL and Versace which he has a particular fondness for.[81] French acts as a brand ambassador on behalf of Diddy's Ciroc line of vodka as part of his "Ciroc Boys". He has also endorsed products ranging from Sprite to Pelle Pelle.

Relationships

In recent years, since his separation from his wife, French has come increasingly under the spotlight from tabloids and celebrity news sites involving his romantic relationships with women. French Montana married Deen Kharbouch in 2007. The former couple have one son, Kruz, who was born in 2009. The couple had separated by 2012, and their divorce was finalized in 2014.[1][82]

After separating from his wife, French was involved in a non-publicized relationship with French-Canadian video model Sophia Body. During an interview with VladTV in 2015, Sophia claimed French as being "one of the loves of my life".[83][84] She described the two of them as still being friends after they split, and expressed her preference for Khloe over Trina, recalling an incident where Trina grimaced at Sophia when the couple attended an industry event with her.[83][84] In an interview with AlyiV, Sophia stated she was introduced to French Montana in Toronto in November 2011, where the two were attending a release party for Canadian rapper Belly.[85][86]

During 2013 it was reported that Montana was in an on-again, off-again relationship with American rapper Trina, who signed to his Coke Boys record label.[87][88] At one point Montana and Trina lived together at his New Jersey residence.[89] However, Montana moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to work on his second studio album, after which his relationship with Trina ended.[90] In 2014, French Montana dated Khloe Kardashian.[89][91][92]

On June 27, 2015, French spoke with Hot 97's Nessa at the 2015 BET Awards, stating he was single and needed some "time off" from relationships.[93] On July 10, Dish Nation reported on French being seen with Rich Kids of Beverly Hills star Dorothy Wang, daughter of billionaire Chinese-American tycoon Roger Wang.[94] The two were filmed attending the "Red, White & Bootsy" party on Independence Day at Nobu in Malibu, with reports claiming they were "pretty much inseparable throughout the night."[94] An Instagram video from Nichelle Hines of Hollywood Cycle captured herself with Dorothy and French together at the same event.[95][96] These prompted speculation whether French Montana is dating Dorothy Wang.[95][96] On July 16, People magazine reported that representatives from French denied rumors the two were dating.[97] When asked about French, Dorothy stated the two were "just friends."[98]

On July 19, close friend and Bad Boy CEO Diddy sent social media on a frenzy after uploading two successive IG videos of himself with French and actress Sanaa Lathan partying at the Playhouse nightclub in LA the night before.[99][100][101] The first video depicted an excited Diddy inside the packed club with French and Sanaa in his immediate background. The second video, since-deleted, depicted Diddy driving his vehicle as he pans the camera to his right, capturing a tired Sanaa Lathan relaxing on French's lap. The image of the two cuddling in Diddy's car sent hip hop and gossip sites on a frenzy speculating the nature of their relationship.[102][103][104][105] On July 21, Sanaa poked fun at the situation posting an edited version of the movie poster of her upcoming film The Perfect Guy on IG.[106][107][108] The poster which featured the tagline "Trust One, Fear The Other", cropped the two male supporting actors' faces with French and Diddy's instead. French responded by liking and reposting the image; the two also began following each other on IG.[107][108] The two were spotted together again on July 31 having dinner with friends,[109][110] and on August 23 attending Bishop Don Juan's annual Players Ball in DC alongside Chris Brown.[111][112]

Shooting attempts

2003 Bronx incident

In 2003, French was shot in the head as he was leaving a recording studio in New York. He was taken to the hospital after the incident, where he survived after having spent several weeks in treatment.[6][7][113] When leaving the studio, French was confronted by two armed gunman who fired shots targeting French.[5][16] The incident resulted in one of the gunmen dead, in what is believed to be a case of "friendly fire" by one assailant against the other. French was investigated for the incident, but the case was eventually dismissed.[7][16][114] In early-2013, French Montana visited the site of the shooting with camera-crew from Life+Times as he recalled the near-death experience and his life growing up in the Bronx. This was the first time he had visited the location since the attempt on his life 10 years ago.[5] According to French, he was set up by someone that was close to him and his circle.[5]

2013 Philadelphia incident

On March 1, 2013, French Montana's convoy was the suspected target of a drive-by shooting in Philadelphia which left one bystander dead and another injured.[77][78] The incident took place early morning, around midnight, outside the Holiday Express Inn on Columbus Boulevard as French Montana's tour-bus, his entourage and a crowd of fans had gathered at the location following a concert earlier that night at the Theater of Living Art,[78] featuring supporting acts AR-Ab and Chinx Drugz.[115][116] At a press conference following the incident, police described a black four-door sedan with tinted windows firing shots into the crowd that surrounded French's tour bus. Two members of the crowd then promptly returned fire leading to a shootout. French Montana was inside the bus alongside fellow rappers Chinx and Meek Mill at the time.[77][78]

Around two dozen people, including French and Chinx, were brought in for questioning by police. Following the event, French and his team maintained that the shooting was unrelated and he was not the intended target.[77][117] He also expressed condolences towards the families of the victims.[118] On March 6, 2013, police arrested a Frank Briggs, who was charged with murder, reckless endangerment and a slew of other charges, for his role in the fatal shooting.[77][119] In December 2014, Frank C. Briggs pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, aggravated assault and a weapons charge, and was sentenced to 20 to 45 years in prison for the incident.[120]

Exotic pets

French has been the owner of a number of pets, ranging from dogs to exotic animals such as tigers and a monkey. On April 22, 2013, French Montana posted an Instagram picture with the caption "Got so high last night bought 2 baby tigers". The picture was of French outdoors holding two tiger cubs, one on each arm.[121][122][123] The tigers, named Ike and Tina, were prominently featured in French's music video for "The Gifted" featuring friend and singer The Weeknd, released later that year.[124][125]

Since late-2014, French Montana became the owner of a pet monkey affectionately named Julius Caesar. A video of the animal was uploaded on December 18, showing French and Mally Mall entering a private-jet with French then cradling the infant monkey in his arms.[126][127] In an interview with Complex magazine, French revealed he received the monkey as a birthday gift from Mally Mall.[128] The pet monkey is often seen in French's vlogs, and is frequently brought up and asked about in interviews and media appearances by the rapper.

During an appearance on MTV's Ridiculousness which aired on September 25, 2014, the rapper noted he had given up the two tigers shortly after he had them, citing the difficulty in feeding and caring for the animals.[129] In 2015, French appeared on GQ's Most Expensivest Shit with 2 Chainz, where the two rappers watched and handled expensive exotic animals which included a pair of parrots, a monkey, and a 9-month old giraffe.[130][131]

Musical influences

French Montana describes Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G, Nas, Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan among the hip hop artists he listened to growing up.[7][81][132] He considers himself a music lover in general, and admires the work of English soul/R&B singers Adele and Amy Winehouse,[81] the English rock band Florence + the Machine,[93] and American singer Lana Del Rey. Several of whom he has sampled in his music.

Discography

Selective discography:

  • Coke Wave (2009) w/ Max B
  • Mac Wit Da Cheese (2009)
  • Coke Wave 2 (2009) w/ Max B
  • Mac & Cheese 2 (2010)
  • Coke Boys (2010)
  • Casino Life (2011)
  • Coke Boys 2 (2011)

Filmography

Film
Year Title Role Notes
2015 Respect the Shooter[133] Post-production
TBA The Perfect Match Filming
Television
Year Title Role Notes
2013 Wild 'N Out Himself Season 5, episode 5
2014 Keeping Up with the Kardashians Episode: "Secrets of a Double Life"
2014-2015 Kourtney and Khloé Take The Hamptons 3 episodes
2014 Ridiculousness Season 5, episode 12
2015 Wild 'N Out Season 7, episode 6

Awards and nominations

African Muzik Magazine Awards

Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2014 French Montana Best Male Diaspora[134] Nominated

BET Awards

Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2013 "Pop That" Best Collaboration[135] Nominated

BET Hip Hop Awards

Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2013 "Pop That" Best Club Banger[136] Won
Perfect Combo[136] Nominated

Billboard Music Awards

Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2015 "Loyal" Top R&B Song[137] Nominated

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External links