French Montana has always divided hip-hop fans; you either love him or hate him. The Bad Boy Records signee has enjoyed a steady growth via the underground; from his first incarnation as Young French with his popular ‘Cocaine City’ DVD series to a solid mixtape run over the past decade.
However, the Bronx rapper has previously struggled with the official album format. His official debut, 2013’s ‘Excuse My French’, had little cohesion and fell flat, and last year’s ‘MC4’ — which felt more in line with the successful mixtape series from which it took its name — ended up being downgraded to a free release when it became accidentally distributed in Target stores way ahead of the due date.
Now with ‘Unforgettable’ in heavy rotation around the world, and visibility higher than ever, French Montana returns to have another pop at a sophomore album — ‘Jungle Rules’.
The album makes a particularly strong start; wistful album opener ‘Whiskey Eyes’ French reconnects with his close friend Chinx, who was tragically shot dead in 2015, with the help of a hazy hook from London singer-songwriter Fe. This is immediately followed by summer anthem contender ‘Unforgettable’ which preceded the project capturing hearts across the globe, and it’s difficult to go to a club right now without hearing Swae Lee’s hook ringing out into the night.
The strength of ‘Jungle Rules’ lies in French’s ability to get the most out of his guest features. Toronto mega star The Weeknd provides his usual brash swagger on ‘A Lie’, which also features a verse from the legendary Max B, recorded from his prison cell. Houston native and Clash cover star Travis Scott brings French into his world on ‘Jump’. Atlanta’s Future and Quavo star on ‘No Pressure’ and ‘Migo Montana’ respectively, while Young Thug delivers a scintillating performance on ‘Black Out’ and T.I. brings his Southern touch and jaw dropping flow on ‘Stop It’.
The album even gets a guest spot from Jamaican superstar Alkaline as the track ‘Formula’ gives us a welcome break from trap bangers with a dancehall jam that’s bound to make waves on dance floors across the world. And the star feature on ‘Jungle Rules’ goes to Pharrell, who turns back the clocks with a N.E.R.D-esque verse on the Organized Konfusion-sampling ‘Bring Dem Tings’.
The six or so tracks Montana goes solo on, however, aren’t to be sniffed at. Tracks like ‘Trippin’ and ‘White Dress’ he displays his now-signature flow and trademark adlibs (“HAHN!”), while ‘Famous’ sees Montana at his most honest, discussing the peaks and troughs of fame and relationships.
As with most of French’s output, ‘Jungle Rules’ stands out in its beat selection. French draws on some big production names, with a credits list that contains the likes of Scott Storch, London On Da Track, Murda Beatz, and long-term collaborator Harry Fraud.
On ‘Jungle Rules’, French sticks to his tried and tested formula, not altering his melodic flow or style at all, but instead utilising it into a tool to piece together a more cohesive and complete sounding album. It isn’t a game changer, nor is it especially groundbreaking. If you weren’t a French Montana fan before, it’s unlikely that this album will change your mind about the Morocco-born rapper.
Yet ‘Jungle Rules’ provides further proof that Montana is a staple of the current rap world. An album packed with tracks made to shake clubs across the globe, as well as a guest feature list that would make almost every rapper jealous; French’s flow and character may be the same as his previous works, but his stature within the rap world has rocketed.
Words: Mike Wood
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