They say, when you’re in France, do what a French does. We say, wherever you are, do what FRENCH MONTANA does. From touring the world, shooting music videos, doing club appearances, being the leader of Coke Boys, to making hits like “Stay Schemin’” and “Shot Caller,” the hustle never stops and so does he.
“I want to go overseas on what I call a grindcation—grinding on vacation.”
A lot has been said about the rap game and its key players—how they’re all about the money and the fame— but really, a lot more credit should be given to the hustle involved in tackling its ins and outs. French Montana is a testament to this coup. Being in the industry for almost a decade and recently aligning himself with the likes of Rick Ross and Diddy, he has established himself as someone who has paid his dues and is here to collect what he deserves.
Born as Karim Kharbouch of Somali-Moroccan descent, This rapper has come a long way from home. From selling DVDs that documented street culture and his talent as an underground artist, producing more than 15 mixtapes and releasing an album with Maybach Music Group, to working with his album, Excuse my French, he stays schemin’ and tells us exactly why he is “Self Made.”
Hey, French. What’s up?
I was in London for a show but I had to fly back to the US for the BET Awards. I am performing in the pre-show at the BET Awards so that’ll be a good time and I just came back from the Club Paradise Tour with Drake, Meek Mill, J. Cole and 2 Chainz.
Where did the name French Montana come from?
Well, I got the name French from being Moroccan. A lot of people don’t know I’m from there, but I moved to the US when I was 13. Montana comes from the hustle, like Tony Montana. That came from my hustle with the Cocaine City DVD series.
Who are your musical influences?
2PAC, Notorious B.I.G., and Nas were of my generation, so I listened to those guys a lot. Right now, Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg are some of my favorite people and are definitely big influences on my music.
How would you compare your hustle now vs. your hustle before?
Back in Morocco, I just remember if you had money, you lived good. Out here, everyone has an opportunity to make that money. Now that I have the opportunity in music, there is just so much more to do. I have to work even harder—in the studio and on the road.
Even after 10 years, you’re still going at it. What’s your motivation to keep grinding?
The passion for music is a big thing for me. Also, money. I wanted a certain kind of lifestyle so I had to grind to earn that money for the cars, the clothes, the chains. In Morocco, it was different; people hustled differently because there was a bigger difference between rich and poor.
Do you think your music and style have change over the years?
My style over the years has been inspired by my hustle. As the hustle evolved, my style evolved. From the Cocaine City DVDs to making music, the way I have handled myself has evolved into what I always aspired to have.
I had always been passionate about fashion, but now I have the means to invest even more. I am really into Versace, I wear a lot of their silks. I also like the classic houses like Fendi and Gucci and also Louis Vuitton. The shoe game is proper, but my favorite shoes ever have to be the blue Penny Hardaways. I’ve also been wearing YSL shoes a lot lately.
“Excuse My French is going to sound like New York City.”
Congrats on the new album, Excuse My French.
Thank you. Excuse My French is going to sound like New York City. I have been working with Max B, the MMG family, Rick Ross, and Diddy. Rick Ross and Diddy are executively producing it and it will come out on Bad Boy. I’d like to someday work with Jay-Z and also Snoop Dogg.
Tell us about your first single, “Pop That.”
The song is picking up so fast. I want it to be the record of the year. I loved working with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, and Drake. When I first heard the beat, I knew it needed to be big. Every time I perform the song, it feels crazy, the energy.
Do you plan on reaching out to an international market?
This is something I am very interested in. I had a great time performing in London and want to go back and tour more in the UK. I want to go overseas on what I call a grindcation—grinding on vacation. There are many international artists; I love Amy Winehouse and Adele out of the UK. I also want to go and perform in Africa.
Being signed, does that make you “mainstream?”
No, I don’t think so. Being signed really just means you now have some backing to get your music out there. It’s more of a team effort now and we out here getting it.
Does being a dad affect the way you are as a rapper?
Hell yeah, it inspires me to go harder.
What do you think is the state of hip-hop right now?
I think hip-hop is at a good state. Bad Boy is out here killing it. Massive, nationwide, worldwide tours. Hip-hop artists are the biggest they have ever been and the audience worldwide is crazy.
With different crews running the game, YMCMB, MMG, BAD BOYS etc… do you feel like it’s a need for an artist to be associated with a “crew?”
No, you can be associated with a crew but I have my own. I came from having a lot of drama with people in the past. I am in a better position. You make more money when you are cool with everyone. It’s better for business.
Can you curse in French?
I speak English and Arabic and French. I can definitely curse in French.
Story by Loris Peña
Photographed by Shareif Ziyadat