Release Date: May 21, 2013
Record label: Bad Boy
Genre(s): Rap, Gangsta Rap, East Coast Rap, Hardcore Rap
Having launched his Cocaine City cartel and then aligned it with Rick Ross' Maybach Music empire, Bronx rapper and hip-hop entrepreneur French Montana keeps building the co-branding with his official debut, which lands on Bad Boy with Interscope distribution. Don't forget that Akon's Konvict Music was also involved in the album's long road to release, and yet with this troubled birthing process, Excuse My French is something to be proud of, as scattershot and bloated as it is. On that latter count, the features are everywhere with everyone from Max B to the Weeknd crowding out the man whose name is on the cover.
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.
Nothing gets to French Montana. The Moroccan-American MC has scored a string of hits on the strength of his luxuriously unhurried flow, slinging street dreams in the cadences of a sleepy don. The beats on his major-label debut range from bleak to triumphal to jackhammer-manic; none of it seems to make a difference to French, who spills syllables in the same rich slurry nearly every time.
Here’s a guess: if you can’t promise that your blockbuster rap album will outsell the National and Darius Rucker, you don’t have a blockbuster rap album. And, as such, you do not get a blockbuster rap album budget. It’s rare when Billboard statistics can prove anything these days, but in the case of French Montana’s Excuse My French, its meek first-week numbers are an echo of an apathetic reception, the dull thud of a sunk cost.
French Montana is a product of the times; he lacks substance, integrity and talent, but looks good in a photo. The snakes in big downtown offices know this character well; they drape him in Egyptian fabrics, massage his ego and wait to collect on their loan. Meanwhile, the music suffers. Excuse My French is almost exclusively loud and aggressive, which has become the formula for this type of thing: programmed, repetitive hi-hats, 808s and a guest verse by Rick Ross.
What French Montana has always lacked in technical ability, he’s made up for with personality. French is a stone cold charmer; a Waka Flocka Flame with less energy in many ways. Like Waka, his approach to music is similar to that of a high school football jock who decides he can do anything—act in plays, do well academically, and invevitably, rap— so he does it all in an earnest and sincere way.
The Moroccan born New Yorker’s long-delayed debut finally arrives, and much of it lands with blunt force without quite demonstrating a fully formed vision. Montana borrows from various sources for his tales of hedonism and nihilistic street posturing. His verses and music are informed by both East Coast brusqueness and Southern trap music. The strength of the better songs, such as “When I Want” or “[Expletive] What Happens Tonight,” comes from the confrontational rhymes, which have a coked-out aggression.
French Montana EXCUSE MY FRENCH How do you solve a problem like French Montana? For the last couple of years, he’s made a cottage industry of lifting bits of old hip-hop songs and redelivering them in his sleepy drawl, a strategy that only intermittently worked on his recent debut album, “Excuse My French” (Bad Boy/Interscope), which revealed him as the sum of parts but not whole. And yet he remains a regular radio presence, though not via any of his own songs. On Chris Echols’s “Smile,” he’s used in the familiar way, as a living repository of rap history, repurposing some old Lil’ Kim lines from 1996’s “Crush on You” on an R&B song that could have easily come from that era.
It's inadvisable to expend too much energy thinking about Excuse My French. One can practically feel the record bristle under such scrutiny, an understandable response given the number of legitimate conventional criticisms that could be levied at the Bronx, NY rapper's full-length debut. Branded by no less than four distinct label imprints and saddled with nearly two dozen vocal guests, French Montana seems a belovedly pitiable runt of the rap litter at a time when he purports to be leading the herd.