Everybody likes French Montana. The rapper is friends with everyone, from the A-listers (Kanye, Drake, the Kardashians) to his day ones (DJ Khaled, Max B). He’s one of hip-hop’s most affable and well-connected figures, rap’s Mr. Congeniality.
But sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sample clearance issues and an unfortunate leak in August led French to cancel his sophomore album, Mac & Cheese 4 (MC4), he revealed exclusively in an interview with Complex. “I made it how I made Mac & Cheese 3,” he said— meaning that he made it like a mixtape, outside of the strict legal guidelines required for an official album release. Rather than cobble together some other, less-than-ideal version of the project, originally slated for an Oct. 14 release, French opted to move on to the next one. After all, you don’t earn a reputation like French’s by wallowing in your problems.
Ahead of his scheduled appearance at the first-ever ComplexCon (Nov. 5–6 in Long Beach, California), French spoke with us about the hard decision to scrap MC4, his new release plan, his plans for the 2016 election (which unfortunately won’t include voting, as his publicist informed him mid-interview), and what’s happening with his friend Max B’s impending release from prison.
Can you explain the setbacks with MC4?
Songs like "I'm Heated" and "Two Times" couldn't be cleared. By the time I got the mix how I recorded it, it wasn't the same. I just ain't have the same feeling for it. Everybody had to replay shit, and do all this extra shit, so I wasn't in the mood to put it together. All the music going to come out, you know what I'm saying, just packaged differently. Plus, the album got leaked.
Do you feel like you let the fans down?
Nah, I feel like I didn't because I'm going to still drop something.
Was it hard walking away from MC4?
Yeah, of course. [But] let me tell you something: I'm never married to a date. I got 17 mixtapes I put together, and one album—that's 18 projects in my whole career. I'm never married to a date. I put it out whenever it's right. You could force yourself to make it to that date, but if it's not right, [if] it don't come out right, you can't force it.
Have you started working on a new project?
Yeah, I'm like 70 percent done.
What's something you want to accomplish with the new release that you didn't with Mac & Cheese 4?
Just make sure it don't get leaked. That's why I don't want to announce the name or nothing. I just want to wait until it's done and just drop it. Make sure it don't leak, make sure everything is cleared before I announce anything.
You’re supposedly going to drop a mixtape in October?
Yup, a project. It's going to be some of the best music you've ever heard.
You and Max B came up together, and you’ve stayed in touch with him since he was sentenced to 75 years in prison in 2009. In September, it was revealed he will be up for release in just two years. Where were you when you first heard that news?
I been knew he had an appeal, but I found out from [music executive] Frank Babar—Frank is this guy who helped me and Max out—while I was on the Bad Boy Tour. We been working trying to get him out since he got in. We had our fingers crossed, you know?
How did you react when you heard that he would be getting out?
Man, I was excited. Besides all the music, besides everything, that's my brother. His mother is like my mother. When I lost him, I just didn't lose somebody that was rapping with me, I lost my brother and I was hurt more than anything. Like I always told the people, I have one dream, and that's for me to see him out of jail.
What's the earliest he could be out?
The earliest he can be out is two years; the latest is six to seven. They reduced his 75 years to two years. [When he gets out] I think me and him are going to partner up with our own label. He's the illest when it comes to names, so I'm waiting for him [to choose a name for the label]. That's the Silver Surfer.
Have you spoken to him since the announcement?
Of course. He always feel right, his spirit is always high. He's one of those guys that's always in good spirits.
People were speculating about the reduced sentence, saying that Max must've ratted on somebody to get it.
No, no, no. He's not telling. I don't pay attention to stuff like that. It's nowhere near the truth.
What do you think the response to his release will be once he touches down? Do you think it's going to be similar to when Gucci came home?
I think it's going be a lot bigger than when Gucci came home.
Max has been away for a long time. Do you think he’ll be able to fit into the current music landscape?
He did another bid just like this before, seven years, then he came home. He is a Silver Surfer. I don't think he aged. He's on top of everything that's going on.
Are you and Max planning on releasing some songs from the vault before he's released?
Yeah, I might throw something out with me and him this week or next week.
Has he spoken to you about who he wants to work with?
First he wants to get in the studio and put something together for himself. I don't think he's thinking about working with anybody right now. Or if he do, that's on him. He got his own relationships with people he fucks with.
Has anybody reached out to collaborate with him?
I mean, you know how people are, man. Once he gets home everybody's going...people always dickride once they see somebody's home. All these dick bangers. [Laughs.] And he don't know none of these people who keep tweeting about him and shit. I see all these people like, Max B, this and that. Max B coming home, this and that. I'm talking to him like, "Do you know any of these people?” He's like, "Nah, I don't even know these people." And what if that news is false and he's still going through his appeal, you know what I'm saying? That's going to fuck it up for him.
Drake’s dissed a few people on your records—Common on “Stay Schemin’,” Joe Budden on “No Shopping.” Why does he go after people when you're in the studio with him? Do you encourage him?
Nah, I just think we got that vibe in there. I don’t know why. When he did “Stay Scheming,” I wasn't in the studio with him, [and] he still went at somebody. “Pop That” was actually our first time in the studio. Look, that’s my dog, man; he can do whatever he wants. If he feels like he needs to say anything, he’ll say it. We make beautiful records.
Who’s louder when they’re excited, Khaled or Kanye?
They both special, man. Powerful speeches from both. They energy is just special, and that's why they do special things.
What’s a gem Kanye’s dropped on you during those talks?
Just the other day, he was telling me we’re the new Abu Dhabi. [Laughs.] Kanye be having powerful Malcolm X speeches. He’s been like a big brother to me, helping me throughout my whole career. Same thing for Khaled; he put me on my first feature with Jay Z, on “They Don’t Love You No More.”
One of the best things we’ve seen on the internet is you shooting free throws for Khaled; you were betting $30,000. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever bet on?
I remember me walking out of Khaled’s studio at like four in the morning. I think I had a little drink in me and Meek was talking [to me], and I think Khloe was with me too, and we had to catch a flight. I was like, Yo I gotta leave right now. And he was like, Let’s bet $20,000 on a shot. I would’ve stayed ‘cause I was on fire. He gave me $40,000, and I was like, We gotta go, we gotta go. It was like the fastest $40,000 I ever made. Literally a minute and a half.
I’d say the second fastest you made bread is betting Drake $60,000 on the NBA Finals earlier this year.
Hey, he just owes me a dinner.
What's the craziest bet you’ve lost?
Well, I lost $120,000 on a bet with Meek, Khaled, and Ross. Betting on basketball…it gets real.
Are you going to vote in this election?
I think I’ma vote.
French's publicist [interjecting]: He can’t vote.
French's publicist: You’re not a citizen, you can’t vote.
Yeah I can, I’m a citizen.
French's publicist: You’re a citizen now?
A green card don't make you a citizen?
French's publicist: No. He can’t vote so we’ll skip that question.
As a Muslim immigrant living in America, what does the possibility of a Trump presidency mean to you?
The leader of this country should promote everything with positivity. I mean, I don’t feel like everything he’s doing is bad—sometimes you gotta make certain choices that are going to help the country as a whole. But not these extreme measures that he’s doing, not stopping a whole race. I feel like anyone with some common sense [can see that] he’s hiding a lotta things that he will do if he do get in that position. It’s just like the tip of the iceberg he’s showing people.
I feel like Trump made [his campaign] bigger than what anybody thought, and that comes from him being a businessman. He used to selling Trump penthouses; he know how to negotiate. It’s good to manipulate, if you have positive thoughts. When you manipulate something and you have a dark heart, it’ll reflect on the country as a whole.
What does your family think about Trump?
They said if Trump ever takes the seat, they going back to Morocco. They don’t want to be here if he becomes the president.
If you look at any of your musical peers, who would make the best president?
I’ma go with Kanye. He would make it a musical world, full of fashion and Yeezys. [Laughs.]
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.