That French Montana’s debut album Excuse My French dropped on what would’ve been Biggie’s 41st birthday is apt, if not coincidental. To be clear, French is not 2013’s “rap Alfred Hitchcock” or New York City’s undisputed crown rocker. But Excuse My French holds up to the same Bad Boy tradition historically anchored by P. Diddy and The Notorious One. It’s a Bad Boy album that does Bad Boy things: Reinterpret well-known hits to make catchy singles.
Sonically, French’s first is Big Apple at its core, caramel coated with trap references and Southern twang. It’s a modern mashup that defines the newly emerging East Coast soundscape without recalling boom-bap revivalism. The amped lead single “Pop That” flips Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock” into a party-starting posse cut with Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. “Freaks,” which features Nicki Minaj, channels Lil Vicious’s reggae classic “Murder She Wrote,” and “We Go Wherever We Want”—costarring Ne-Yo and Raekwon—is a sugary revamp of Rae’s “Ice Cream.”
The album has summertime party vibes, and French’s guest list is packed to capacity—the most glaring criticism of Montana’s career. Dancehall’s Gully Gad Mavado turns up “Fuck What Happens Tonight” while The Weeknd gives “Gifted” an emotional edge. French has proven he can stand alongside rap’s heavyweights, yet his limited lyricism, confined to boasts about money, misogyny, and drugs, quickly stales. Even during moments in need of introspection, like on the album’s Max B-guested intro “Once in a While,” French stutters: “Getting shot up/then he got up/came back, then he lit the spot up/homey hit the chart up/Moroccan boy/you sloppy boy,” narrating with all the clarity of the “we want more” kid in that AT&T commercial. He’s more successful when slurring his way through the mindlessly infectious single “Ain’t Worried About Nothing,” an apparent upgrade of Lil Wayne’s “No Worries.”
Excuse My French isn’t a cohesive rap mantra. Instead, it’s a compilation of singles buoyed by monosyllabic hooks and adlib-drenched babbles. But it outlines French’s feel-good approach to music and with that perspective in mind, this debut serves its purpose. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)