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French Montana

French Montana

Moroccan-American rapper French Montana is one of the world's most successful African-born artists, with several platinum certifications and collaborations with numerous major hip-hop figures. He rose from the New York mixtape underground in the 2000s and built an indie empire with his Cocaine City imprint, then emerged as a pop-savvy hip-hop act in the 2010s. Starting with his 2013 debut album, Excuse My French, he became known for his high-profile collaborations and a handful of chart hits including the diamond-certified "Unforgettable" from his 2017 sophomore LP, Jungle Rules. 2019's double album Montana was another showcase for big-name guests that featured the hit singles "No Stylist" and "Writing on the Wall." He retained his tried-and-true formula in 2021 for another guest-heavy effort, They Got Amnesia, before collaborating with Harry Fraud on 2022's Montega and DJ Drama on 2023's Coke Boys 6. Continuing another mixtape series, Mac & Cheese 5 arrived in 2024.

Born Karim Kharbouch in Morocco, he immigrated to the U.S. while in his teens. He set up shop in the Bronx and began releasing his Cocaine City series of DVDs in 2002, mixing interviews with established hip-hop artists and unsigned talent. In 2009 he began releasing his own mixtape CDs with DJs like Evil Empire, DJ Drama, and Big Mike as his hosts. That same year, he would be signed to Akon's Konvict Musik label, but in late 2011 it was announced that they had parted ways and that Montana was signing to both P. Diddy's Bad Boy and Rick Ross' Maybach Music imprints in a unique joint venture. His 2012 single "Pop That" would be the first release for the united labels, while 2013 saw the arrival of his debut album, Excuse My French.

A series of mixtapes, each with an increasing R&B influence, brought Montana to 2016, when he released Casino Life 2: Brown Bag Legend. The mixtape included the hit single "Moses" featuring Chris Brown and Migos. A full LP -- MC4 -- was slated for the end of the year, but after the album was leaked by a retailer months before its official release, Montana scrapped the rollout entirely and issued it as a mixtape. MC4 (aka "Mac & Cheese 4") featured appearances by the Weeknd, Drake, Jeezy, A$AP Rocky, Kodak Black, Miguel, Nas, Kanye West, DJ Khaled, Beanie Sigel, Jadakiss, Styles P, the Alchemist, Max B, and Chinx. The following year, Montana returned with his official sophomore effort, Jungle Rules. The record included guests like the Weeknd, Travis Scott, Pharrell Williams, Quavo, Future, T.I., and Young Thug. Lead single "Unforgettable" with Swae Lee became a hit, topping the Billboard rap chart and climbing into the Top Three of the R&B and main singles list. The album itself, certified gold in the U.S., debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.

In 2018, Montana joined Diplo, Lil Pump, and Zhavia Ward for the bombastic single "Welcome to the Party" from the Deadpool 2 soundtrack, which returned him to the Hot 100. Additional singles "No Stylist" with Drake and "Slide" with Blueface and Lil Tjay were also chart hits, carrying Montana into 2019. Those latter tracks landed on his third effort, which was issued toward the end of the year on the same day he was released from hospitalization in the ICU. A double album, Montana, boasted an impressive cast of guests, including Juicy J ("50's & 100's"), Swae Lee (on the "Unforgettable" sequel "Out of Your Mind"), and Post Malone and Cardi B ("Writing on the Wall"). Upon release, the LP debuted at number 25 on the Billboard 200. The next year, he returned to his mixtape roots with Coke Boys 5.

2021 saw the release of Montana's fourth full-length, They Got Amnesia, which featured guests such as John Legend, Rick Ross, Ty Dolla $ign, Doja Cat, and many more. In 2022, Montana teamed up with Harry Fraud on the joint project Montega, which included the singles "Drive By," "Blue Chills," and "Brick & Bags." Coke Boys 6, with DJ Drama, appeared in 2023 and reached the Top 20 of the Billboard 200. Mac & Cheese 5, another installment in a mixtape series running since 2009, was released in 2024. The ambitious effort was issued in a comprehensive "Versions" edition including sped up, slowed down, a cappella, and instrumental versions of every song. ~ David Jeffries

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