Some artists blur genres, but Grammy-nominated producer and recording artist French Montana blurs borders. His inimitable fusion of classic East Coast rhymes, wavy pop swagger and international ambition elevated him to the forefront of the game on a global scale. In the beginning of January, he dropped his highly anticipated ‘Coke Boys 6: Money Heist Edition‘ mixtape, which debuted at #1 and #3 on iTunes Top Albums and #2 on Spotify‘s Top Album Debuts in the US. The album also reached #1 selling R&B/Hip-Hop album of the week and #1 selling independent album of the week from January 6th to the 12th.
This January, you dropped the highly anticipated mixtape ‘Coke Boys 6: Money Heist Edition’, which debuted at #1 and #3 on iTunes Top Albums and #2 on Spotify’s Top Album Debuts in the US. What makes this CB edition different from the previous ones and what makes it connected the whole CB series?
Well, it is connected to the whole CB series because it’s part six and it’s the highest-charting mixtape that we ever had. So it was a beautiful thing to be number one independent mixtape. And it’s my independent journey. I’m 100 % independent and doing those numbers independently is a beautiful thing.
Definitely shout out to all the fans and shout out to everybody that took part of ‘Coke Boys 6’ mixtape and it’s the best one so far. And as long as you’re going up and not down, it’s a beautiful thing. So, shout out to everybody that is part of the ‘Coke Boys’. We finally charted number one independent and almost top ten Billboard, that’s big for a mixtape.
This latest edition is riddled with dynamic features from the original Coke Boys Chinx, Cheeze and you, alongside returning artists A$AP Rocky and Benny The Butcher. How do you decide on the collabrators on each CB edition?
Coke Boy mixtapes is almost like a family thing. So when we do these, we kind of just do music with people that we really love and people that we catch the vibe within the studio. For example, with A$AP Rocky we went to Hawai’i and we did a lot of songs and that’s one example of how we’ve made music. With Benny The Butcher we got a long history. Me and him and Harry Fraud and the list goes on. Shout out to Cheeze, shout out to Chinx. It was historical what Max B did.
I think it’s more of a family thing when it comes to Coke Boy Music and that’s why the whole album sounds like one song, because everything just blends together and everything comes together. It’s like Voltron.
You’ve been embedded in the mixtape era with his Coke Boys series since 2010. How was the idea for ‘Coke Boys’ born and what inspired it?
‘Cocaine City’ was the DVDs that we started. ‘Coke Boys’ is a creation of kings everywhere and it was a branch off of that. And we had ‘Coke Wave’ with me and Max B and it’s just a CB thing. The mixtape era was kind of a way for us to hold nothing back and just sample anything we want. We had the freedom to do whatever we want, without nobody trying to block us or box us in.
I feel like we would sample Michael Jackson if we want, we would sample whoever it is and we’ll drop it on the mixtapes and the streets will love it. I remember me and Max B doing Christina Aguilera, like as soon as the song came out, putting it out on the mixtape and people just loving it. It’s just like the wild, wild west and we love it. So it kind of feels dope to start having fun again and dropping mixtapes and going back to that. What inspired it is just what we used to do, doing it again and getting that love back for making music.
Growing up you listened to hip hop artists like Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan. How did listening to their music inspire you to become a hip hop artist yourself?
It inspired me a lot listening to Tupac, B.I.G, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang. I felt like they were making music and not knowing it. I feel like hip hop was just made. It was still fresh in the first 30 years or 20 years and they were still figuring it out. I mean, they were figuring it out as they were going and superstars were being made. I was witnessing it from a whole other country and I didn’t even understand the English. I grew up watching hip hop come to what it is today, from artists becoming superstars and rock stars to hip hop being the biggest genre. I feel like that type of music from Nas and Snoop and B.I.G., me getting addicted to the lifestyle as much as the music, was a beautiful thing.
Why do you describe music as your biggest love?
Music is my biggest love because my music got me out of poverty. Music got me out of life or death situations. Music gave me life. Music gives me energy. Music is my passion. I don’t know what else I’d be doing that would make me as happy as making music. The chords, the melodies, everything plays a part in it and makes my love for it.
I just think it’s indescribable because I’m still looking for something that I haven’t found and I can’t describe it in music, so it’s almost like you’re always looking for that. It’s like a drug and you’re just looking for that next dose to get higher. And that’s what it is. That’s what keeps me going with music. I can do it until the day that I’m not here no more.
What made you fall in love with hip hop?
I fell in love with hip hop because it was a lifestyle and not just music. And I fell in love with it because when I was listening to every artist that I loved, it was like going to college and studying and molding everything that I learned from them into what I had packaged up in myself and just added my own flavor to it.
In October 2022, you were honored with the ‘Innovator Award‘ at the Pencils of Promise Gala for your efforts in Uganda, including the Unforgettable Global Healthcare Campaign and your work building the Suubi Center with Mama Hope and Global Citizen. What does receiving such an honor for your philantrophic work mean to you?
I watch a lot of artists. In the history of Africa, artists or other countries or other people just come there, take and never give back. Just being a son of the continent, I want to see change and I’m not going to see change unless I help make change. So that was one of the things that I fell in love with giving back. And I’m going to keep doing that until I can’t do it. And I appreciate everybody that helped, from Mama Hope to Global Citizens to Pencils of Promise to everybody that’s with me on this mission. And as much as we get, as much we’re going to give back. So I’m definitely honored.
Some of your other humanitarian work includes also the viral Mama Hope #UNFORGETTABLE Dance challenge and your Pan-American health and education movement into Morocco with Care Morocco. Why do these efforts hold such significance to you?
They hold such significance to me because I’m a Moroccan kid that came here at 13 years old when I didn’t speak English. I know a lot of kids are dreamers just like me and they don’t have the tools, they don’t have the right information and they don’t have the right care. God gives you some time so you can help other people and the moment you don’t help other people, he takes everything back away from you. It’s almost like we are vessels for purpose. So you got to complete your purpose while you’re here.
Last year, you launched a new joint-venture, ‘NAQI Healthcare‘, which provides in-home and private accommodation detoxification services for clients in Florida, New York, Texas and California in partnership with Guardian Recovery Network. What made you decide on this joint-venture? And why is its existence so important in today’s world?
I lost a lot of friends, like Mac Miller and a bunch of other friends that I knew and a bunch of artists that I didn’t know that I felt like I knew through the music and through this hip hop family that we have. It’s a big hip hop family, so every time there’s a loss because of a drug overdose or anything like that, we all feel the pain from it. We all want to help.
Coming from the streets of New York City and just knowing a lot of people that are addicted to drugs, they feel like they’re too strong to ask for help and we as men, our ego gets in the way. So I came up with this program. It provides you with care inside your home to protect privacy. People will come to you. If I save one life with this, I’ve done my job. Because I’m coming from the streets and coming from those types of situations, I know exactly what people go through, such as myself. I want to make sure that everybody is comfortable with asking for help.
What’s next for you? Are you already working on new music, maybe a new CB edition?
I’m dropping a new single called ‘Ratataaaaa’. I’m working on my documentary, it’s coming out this year. I’m just taking advantage of situations as they come, but I have a lot of things in the works and a lot of surprises. ‘Montega Part Two’, with me and Harry Fraud. Maybe another Coke Boy mixtape this year. A soundtrack, a documentary and plenty of other things. Stay tuned.
Talent: French Montana
Stylist: Raz Martinez
Groomer: Fernando Torrent
Editor: Timi Letonja
This interview was done for Numéro Netherlands by Jana Letonja.