Only a few months ago, French Montana signed to Bad Boy, stepping into the arena of Sean Combs. Long years of mixtape and street DVD grinding had finally paid off. Complex connected with French at the Beats store in SoHo to discuss the state of the industry, the state of the MC's life, and the State of the Union, which President Obama had only just recently delivered.
Interview by Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)
Complex: What were you up to last night?
French Montana: Blowing cocaine with so many beautiful women.
[Laughs.] I was just in the studio, working hard.
On the album?
On the Coke Boys mixtape.
When’s that gonna drop?
About a month.
Your mixtapes have been pretty...
They got me where I’m at.
That and the Cocaine City DVD’s. When did the last Cocaine City drop?
About three years ago.
Do you plan on returning to that project?
Of course. When I shifted to the music, I put the Cocaine shit to the side. You know, out of sight out of mind. I've only been focused on rap. But when I come back with it, the fans will be like, “Whoa, we forgot he had this.”
How will they be different now? Three years removed, you’re at a way different point in your life, in your career...
I think that people will still love it. It'll still be that potent product. It’s still the stuff you don’t see on TV. People love the controversy.
There's some controversy around some of the people you’re affiliated with.
Shout out to Drake, shout out to Common. It’s good for hip hop. You need it sometimes.
I listened to your Angie interview and that’s essentially what you said.
There’s nothing wrong with it. What I said, that was a joke. But they ran with it like Drake really told me he wanted to fight or something. It was just a joke. I feel like rap is a sport, and if it wasn’t for stuff like that, it would be boring.
Exactly. The best part of the movie is the action part. That’s what it is—we're all in a movie and the best part is go at it.
Who are your favorite guys to rap with?
I would say Max B.
How tough is that, then...having him away right now?
It hurt me because he’s a friend. I lost a friend more than if I lost someone I rap with. He was hilarious—I’m sure you’ve watched his clips. He would get so high. And drunk. And there it go, he hit a peak. There it go. There’s Max B. [Laughs.]
Correct me if I’m wrong but you’ve spent some time in jail before too, haven’t you?
Nah, not any long time. I was always in and out. I hate that motherfucking place. Worst shit. That’s the closest thing to a coffin.
What’s the longest time you were there? Couple days?
Yeah, a couple days. I never really got locked up for no...I mean, I had some serious cases but I never did no time.
You didn’t necessarily have any advice for Max B before he went in?
See, he’s a different kind of person. I didn’t have to give him advice. His spirit is so positive. I speak to him on the phone, now, and he's talking to me like I’m locked up. He’s used to bids. He did seven years before. He know how to bid...there’s no advice I could give him.
I was watching your "Shot Caller" video yesterday, noticing that really thick actress, the one you holler at. Do you have any tips for hollering at women?
Tips? When I holler at women, I just let them know that I’m married and if I get with them, it’s a one night stand. Nah, I’m just joking. [Laughs.] Hollering at ladies—the tips I give people—ladies know what they wanna do when they first speak to you. They already decided if they’re gonna give you some pussy. They're smarter than you.
How long have you been married?
How do you like being married?
Hell. Hell on earth. [Laughs.] I got married when I was young. It was a beautiful—it keeps you balanced.
My girlfriend recently moved in with me.
How you like it?
I enjoy it.
You’re gonna hate it. You’re gonna hate it after a while because you’re gonna get tired of it. But then another day, you’re gonna love it because you’ll start getting used to the person and when the person isn't there it feels like you’re missing something. It takes a little while, all the compromising. But once you make it past the first year or second year, it can be something.
Do you have children?
I have a son. He's about 2-and-a-half.
How do you like being a father?
I love it, man. The most beautiful thing is making him smile. They don’t know nothing when they that small, you just want to help them.
How do you want your son’s life to be different than yours growing up?
I want him to go through the same trials because it makes you tougher. People say, "I want my son to live better than me. I’m doing all this so my son won’t have to do anything." But I would really want my son to go through shit so he can appreciate everything more. If I didn’t go through stuff to appreciate life, I wouldn’t be around rap. I wouldn’t change nothing for him.
Growing up, what was the biggest trial you experienced?
When my father left. We had moved to the States when I was about 13, and my father left when I was about 17. My mother didn’t work, and my two little brothers were in school. The rent was due, you know what I’m saying? My whole mentality shifted. I started thinking: I’m going to get to this money. Make sure my family is good. Make sure my own family is good. Since then, it’s been a hustle. I haven't stopped.
Is that the same mentality you have when you’re rapping?
Of course, when I rap—it’s just, this what I do to put food on the table. A job. That’s how I approach it.
It’s just like any other job.
My bread and butter. I don’t know what other people do it for, but for me, that’s my bread and butter.
In the “Shot Caller” video there’s a twist at the end where you wake up in a bodega. Have you worked many shitty jobs?
One time, when I was young, I worked at a car wash in the Bronx. Lasted like three days. It’s funny because the dude I worked for is now working for somebody. I spoke to him the other day. The tables have turned. That part of the video is supposed to speak for everybody. There are wannabe rappers over the whole world. Sometimes you catch yourself in a daze like, "Damn if I was doing this, or doing that..." When you catch yourself in a daze working at something else.
Is that very important to you, having people relate to you?
Of course, of course. I don’t ever want to seem like I’m too good for somebody who loves my music. And when I talk about my accomplishments, I don’t say it to brag, I say it to motivate. 'Cause that’s how I get motivated. I see somebody my age doing something, and I’m like, "Man, I gotta get that."
Is being around Diddy, somebone who’s cast a big shadow in hip-hop, motivation?
Of course. If you don’t get motivated by people like that, then you're in the wrong business. What are you doing it for? It’s motivation, you wanna show somebody that they can come from Morocco, come from anywhere in the world, and get it done.
What is your earliest memory of America?
Tupac dying as soon as I got here.
Had you listened to his music in Morocco?
Man, I’m the biggest ‘Pac fan. That’s when All Eyez on Me had dropped. I love ‘Pac, my favorite of all time.
Do you remember how you heard?
It was playing on the radio in Morocco.
Then you came to America...
Over there [in Morocco], you hear everything but you don’t get to see it. But here you get to see it. So here, I got to see these rappers I'd only heard before. And then I got to meet a lot of these rappers. There are ones that I meet and like more, and ones who I meet and then lose respect for.
What makes you lose respect for somebody?
When you pretend to be something you’re really not. There are people out here that are really about that life. Sometimes you just know how to make music, and you can fake everything else. By understanding music, you can win people over. If you look at the game, there are a lot of people that did some real fucked up shit.
That seems to be what the Common and Drake shit is about. Common’s stance seems to be that Drake...
I don’t know the background. I don’t really know where they come from. A lot of people put on costumes when the camera turn on.
Who has impressed you the most?
I would have to say—not just because he my boy—I’d have to say Max. I would have to say Gucci, because he’s really cuckoo like that.
How did you meet Gucci?
Through Waka Flocka.
I watched the "Chopper Down" video for the first time recently. Did you watch the State of the Union the other night?
Nah, you did?
I did. I support President Obama.
I love Obama. I support him too. I just don’t get into politics.
Do you make an effort to stay out of it?
I don’t make an effort to stay out of it, I just don’t get into it. I have enough problems in my own life, and if things gonna change, they gonna change and I hope that they change for the better. Politics, other people's problems—it’s just too much. You wake up in a good mood and it just fucks your day up. That’s why, what I said about Kanye—
Are you talking about the Angie interview?
Yeah, on Angie, when I said Kanye didn’t have no phone and they told me I had to email him, this and that. I think that’s some real intelligent shit [what Kanye does]. Most of the phone calls you get is people asking for shit, people putting you in a bad mood that fucks up your whole energy. So, I kind of really respect that. That would be something I really want to do, but I just can’t do it now, at this level. I need to be in tune with people and get what I need to get. But I think for a person like him, that’s some real clever shit.
You said during the interview you don’t email at all, right?
Nah, he emailed. He contacts via email.
But you don’t email.
I don’t email nobody on conversations. I don’t do that. You got a lot of stuff done with email, but if you driving all day, you just want to get one conversation in. Like, "Let's get it." Little texts, this and that, shit takes hours.
So you don’t really text either?
I text, but I like talking to people. Sometimes the way you text stuff, people take it the wrong way.
You can’t tell how anybody means anything...
The tone. You gotta watch the tone.
If somebody was to say something about you on a record, would you say something back?
They would never be able to come to New York.
Nobody would be that stupid to talk shit.
Nobody would be that stupid. If you're gonna say something that stupid, you gotta be strong. Because the way we're gonna approach it is going to be different. You have to come to New York— all the labels are here. It would just be suicide. Because I don’t come from rap.