French Montana's Excuse My French Is Finally Here, Though It Almost Didn't Happen
Courtesy Bad Boy/Interscope
Moroccan-born, Bronx-raised rapper French Montana is at a photo shoot in Tompkins Square Park's basketball court. He's shooting the shit in fluent French with the photographer. A gaggle of scruffy teen skaters recognize him and look over as he saunters slowly—always slowly—about.
"Haaaannn," calls out one black teen. Montana reciprocates his calling card ad-lib that's also as much a trademark as the Serpico knit cap and the several chains he's wearing. His brother passes him some Ray-Ban Wayfarers for the shoot.
"Ayo, Frenchie. You skate?" shouts another kid, this one a bit older.
"Nah," Montana says. "I wish." The kid urges him to come over and learn. The two share a laugh.
After the shoot it's back to Daddys House for press. The hallowed recording studio has been Montana HQ for the majority of the making of his debut, Excuse My French. It's been a long time in the making.
"While everyone was trying to get through the door, I got through the window," Montana says referring to his Cocaine City DVD series, the vehicle he bankrolled, which made him a hood household name and got him signed by P. Diddy to his Bad Boy label. Montana wasted no time producing huge records. "Pop That" topped Billboard charts, and "Freak" continues to climb. Excuse is the next rung on the ladder.
"There's a lot of excitement over this album," says Harve Pierre, Bad Boy president. "It's going to be playing in every car passing; every barber shop will be playing it . . . like Ready to Die and Black Rob's first album."
While growing up in the Bronx, Montana listened to those albums to learn the rap ropes. Acclimating to a brand-new culture is hard enough, and doubly so in a place like the South Bronx, traditionally one of New York's most impoverished and violent neighborhoods. "I didn't get picked on because I always carried myself a certain way," Montana says. "But it was hard at times because my English was poor and I really wanted to understand the culture."
By the time he graduated from Columbus High School he was knee-deep in the drug game, taking what he calls "calculated risks" to get what and where he wanted. Getting caught would mean more than just time behind bars. "I would get deported. There wasn't going to be a French Montana in Morocco."