October 4, 2016

Art by Marko Obradović

This is the High School Musical Zilla Rocca always pictured.

On French Montana’s breakthrough single, “Shot Caller,” he references the following rap songs:

“All about the Benjamins” by Puffy
“Nasty Boy” by Biggie
“What’s my Name?” by Snoop”
“Scenario” by Tribe
“Bucktown” by Smif-N-Wessun
“Diggin in the Crates” by Diamond D
“The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep
“Funky Child” by Lords of the Underground
“In Da Club” by 50 Cent
“Can I Get A” by Jay-Z

French is signed to a joint venture between Bad Boy and Maybach Music Group, run by labels run by two men who have a deep love of exploiting old records for hits. But more importantly, French in his early 30s, which means we are of the same generation: Avirex bombers, PNB tee shirts, the Purple Tape, Willie Esco jeans. Too young to buy Naughty Gear but saving every dime for Wu Wear. Picking sides between Bad Boy and Death Row. Not giving a fuck how blatantly Nas switched his style up on It Was Written. Willing to trade anything for the newest DJ CLUE? tape and keeping the newest issue of The Source out of the eyes of classmates who just wanted to hold it for 3rd period and I’ll get it right back I promise this time—and you never see it again.

French Montana is such a hip hop nerd that he references Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog—an indie movie notable for RZA’s outstanding and moody score and Forest Whitaker’s corn rows—on a smash record with Drake and Rick Ross. Ghost Dog. Not Scarface. Not Goodfellas. Not Paid in Full. Ghost Dog.

Ghost Dog is not a staple in talks of beloved hip hop flicks like Belly, Juice, Boyz N Da Hood, and Menace II Society. Ghost Dog is a movie about an urban samurai who rides in a stolen Lexus listening to Killah Priest. He makes friends with a French ice cream truck driver who can’t speak English. He walks by RZA and Timbo King while running errands.  He feeds pigeons and studies Samurai culture. There are maybe 10 people who die in the entire movie.

I have the Ghost Dog soundtrack as well as the score. I worked with a guy at a record store who had the Ghost Dog logo tatted on his arm. Ghost Dog means a lot if you’re a Wu-Tang fanatic in your early 30s. French Montana is clearly that. And this is why he needs to perform at my high school reunion (Class of 2000).

French Montana is the key to staying hot instead of becoming Grown N Sexy if you are like me. I have a wife, a child, and a mortgage. I can go out drinking maybe twice a month. I’m stuck watching the Kardashians, where French, Kanye, and Lamar Odom pop up routinely. But whereas Lamar Odom has serious issues, and Kanye is the most successful and influential cornball ever, French is winking his eye at the mainstream, at Worldstar, and at guys who have to hide their rap CDs and tapes in the basement so the wife forgets that they’re taking up valuable real estate in the house.

What separates French Montana from any Golden Age Preservationist is that he sprinkles in his love for ‘90s hip hop over industry friendly radio joints. He has his signature adlibs, the Max B hook game, thousand dollar chains, and shades on at all times. But don’t get it fucked up—he grew up in the South Bronx. And he sings hooks of beloved songs from 20 years ago, badly offkey, like Biz Markie, Erick Sermon, Grand Puba, and Ghostface.

The best nerds retain their nerdiness while dressing like the cool kids. Rick Ross wanted to sign Kool G Rap to MMG. Westside Gunn namedropped Shut ‘Em Down era X-1 (RIP) of Onyx as one of his influences. Isiah Rashad said he bought every CD by every artist on the Juno soundtrack. French Montana no doubt had Hip Hop Quotables taped to his bedroom wall. But instead of using that base to become the next Termanology, he sprinkled it throughout his mixtapes, his Coke Boy anthems, and his Bad Boy/MMG distributed smash singles. It’s why he is on the Kardashians instead of being shelved by Fat Beats.

I’ve compiled two mixes for you: “French Montana Performs at My High School Reunion,” and “French Montana DJ’s My High School Reunion.” The first is is a mix of his current work flipping songs we loved when Busta Rhymes was pushing N’Bushe butta leathers. The second mix is the source material for those songs if you already haven’t had Throwback Hip Hop dominate your local market’s radio format. Stay young and nerdy forever, my friends.

French Montana Performs at My High School Reunion

    1. Puffy Daddy feat French Montana “Money Ain’t a Problem”
    2. French Montana feat Chinx Drugs and Noreaga “Off the Rip”
    3. French Montana feat Charlie Rock “Shot Caller”
    4. French Montana feat Raekwon & Ne-Yo “We Go Where Ever We Want”
    5. Fat Joe feat French Montana, Rick Ross, Tiara Thomas “Another Day”
    6. Rick Ross feat French Montana “Nobody”
    7. French Montana feat Nicki Minaj “Freaks
    8. French Montana feat ASAP Rocky “Said N Done”
    9. Chinx Drugs feat French Montana, Puff Daddy & Rick Ross “I’m a Coke Boy (Remix)”
    10. French Montana feat DJ Khaled, Mavado, Ace Hood, Snoop, Scarface “Fuck What Happens Tonight”
    11. Rick Ross feat French Montana “What a Shame”
    12. Chinx Drugs feat French Montana “The Silence”
    13. French Montana feat Styles P, Jadakiss, Beanie Sigel “Have Mercy”
    14. French Montana feat Rick Ross, Drake, Lil Wayne “Pop That”

French Montana DJ’s My High School Reunion

  1. Lost Boyz “Renee”
  2. Rampage the Last Boy Scout feat Busta Rhymes “Wild For the Night”
  3. Capone-N-Noreaga “Bloody Money”
  4. Lords of the Underground “Funky Child”
  5. Raekwon “Ice Cream”
  6. Queen Latifah “Just Another Day”
  7. Biggie “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Kills You”
  8. Lil Vicious feat Doug E Fresh “Freaks”
  9. Wu-Tang “Tearz”
  10. A Tribe Called Quest “Scenario”
  11. LL Cool J “Jigglin Remix”
  12. Cam’ron “I Really Mean It”
  13. Camp Lo “Lucchini”
  14. Wu-Tang “Shame on a Nuh”
  15. Terror Squad “What You Gonna Do”
  16. Biggie “Kick in the Door”
  17. Luke “I Wanna Rock”

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