French Montana Talks New Album 'Jungle Rules' & the Importance of JAY-Z's '4:44' Album

French Montana
Jenny Regan

French Montana photographed on Feb. 22, 2016.

Last year, French Montana thought he sculpted his magnum opus MC4. With two platinum singles -- "No Shopping" featuring Drake and "Lockjaw" with Kodak Black -- in tow, he was ready to trounce his adversaries with his new album. Unfortunately, Montana's plans were curtailed after MC4 was leaked two months before its release date. 

Dejected by his misfortune, Montana was unsure on how to proceed next. Instead of being idle, he returned back into his fortress and pieced together his first top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 with Swae Lee collaboration "Unforgettable." The inescapable record became his most successful to date, and arguably his most meaningful. After journeying to Uganda to film the visual, Montana quickly became enamored with the country's inhabitants. There, he forged long lasting bonds with the video's co-stars, the Triplet Ghetto Kids, a group of young dancers he discovered on YouTube. 

With a newfound drive and willingness to succeed, Montana has ousted all of his anxieties and is ready to release his forthcoming album, Jungle Rules, which drops this Friday (July 14). In hopes of trumping MC4, he secured vocals from The Weeknd, Pharrell, Young Thug, T.I., Quavo, Future, and more. 

Billboard spoke to Montana regarding his latest LP, returning home to Morocco, the importance of JAY-Z's 4:44, The Weeknd's love for Max B, and how he got Pharrell to tap back into Skateboard P for his new album.

How did it feel to hit the top 10 of the Hot 100?

Man, it feels beautiful. First time I've ever cracked that top 10. so you already know how I feel. Everything feels like a blessing. We came from nothing. 

During your trip to Uganda for the "Unforgettable" video shoot, you said that you regained your passion for music and life. How were you able to carry that momentum back to the states to work on the album?

It wasn't easy, but I feel like a lot times in life, it's like a roller coaster, you know? God always puts you in that platform to help people. The moment you stop helping people, he takes everything away from you. 

You recently returned back to your home country of Morocco. In what ways did your trip help you become a better man? 

Morocco is my home place of birth, but going back after not being there for so many years, was amazing, especially to get all that love. They told me it was 30,000, but it was really 50,000 people that came out for me with no opening act. No headliners. I feel like it was blessing. I feel like a hometown hero.

Pharrell returned to his Skateboard P mode on your new track "Bring Dem Things." How were you able to get him back into that zone rapping?

He wasn't with it when he first walked in the studio, but I appreciate him tapping back. It's almost like when someone is trying to get me on a record. Sometimes it's like somebody trying to get JAY-Z on his Reasonable Doubt vibe. Some people graduate and turn it down. So, for somebody to tap back into their old sounds is kind of a blessing -- to have Pharrell do that was even more of a blessing. 

You suffered from a major leak when you were prepping to release MC4 last year. What measures have you taken to make sure that Jungle Rules didn't suffer from the same issues?

I mean, had I still dropped MC4, the whole thing would have been dope. It wasn't even about sales. It wasn't about nothing. By the way, both singles ["No Shopping" and "Lockjaw"] went platinum. I'm sure the album would have been platinum, but this album [Jungle Rules] is gonna show you a better way. I just think with the transition from label to label, my mind state wasn't right. I was going through things in my personal life. With this one, I was more in-pocket, you know? I was more settled. The biggest thing with MC4 was that s--t got leaked 60 days before the release date. 

Throughout your career, you've made sure to maintain the legacies of both Max B and Chinx. How important was it for you to keep that trend going, especially with them both being featured on the new album?

Those are my brothers, man. There's no French Montana without Chinx and Max. I'm sure that they would do the same thing for me and I'd know that I'd do the same thing for them until the day I die. Those were really two of my best friends, you know? For somebody that used to be around you every day is in jail, or for somebody who used to be around you every day is out of your life, kind of put me in a deep hole that I had to climb out of.

You were notorious for posing in pictures with the money phone. Did you feel any kind of way when you first heard JAY-Z on 4:44 calling the trend corny? 

I feel like JAY-Z is talking from a grown man perspective, you know? A lot of people follow what he says. There's nothing wrong with getting your life situated. You gotta respect that man for living through so many generations and still being able to make music that's powerful. There's a lot of new savages out here that really don't give a f--k about none of that music. With him, it's more of what the people need to hear, because he has so much influence on the music.

Hip-hop molds a lot of people. With him being the voice of hip-hop, whether he's the hottest at the moment, he's a legend. So for him to make that kind of music is beautiful for our culture, you know? I feel like he got people living the right life, because sometimes you have rappers who never really get out the booth and live their lives. He got people investing their money and not going to the strip club. He got people learned about how the G's did it. He taught us about art and being in a relationship as a grown man. That's a beautiful thing. Every king needs a queen. He a king. That's the picture I got from him.


#junglerules -- #july14th --

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For your record "A Lie," you have The Weeknd and Max B on the same track, which had some people scratching their heads. What made you decide to pair them together on that song?

One of the Weeknd's favorite rappers is Max B. He was a big fan of the whole Coke Boy thing. He was supposed to do "Porn Star" off the Coke Wave 2 mixtape. We were supposed to work together on my first album, but we never got to do it. So I'm glad that I overcame that hole and was able to finally have all three of us together on a record. And it's produced by Harry Fraud. It's like the whole wave together on one song. 

The last time we spoke, you said you considered yourself to be the Kevin Durant of rap. Do you still believe that comparison holds true today?

Honestly, I'd still be Kevin Durant. After having that conversation with you, I ended up meeting him and I still feel the same way. You know, sometimes, they tell you to be careful who you meet because I've met a lot of my idols that I ended up not liking afterwards, but with him, he's not necessarily my idol, but with him, just meeting somebody going through the same thing I'm going through [was dope]. I love his swag.