Hip-hop star French Montana suffered from creator’s block prior to the Uganda trip that sparked the visual to the now 9x Platinum, Swae Lee-featuring record “Unforgettable.” It’s bigger than music for the Moroccan artist, who saw himself in the kids of Uganda. Montana credits his experience as his first true vacation giving him newfound creative inspiration as a rapper.
The 32-year-old donated $100,000 to help build a brand new health center for Ugandans, with his heart in the right place. Montana hasn’t stopped working since dropping his Gold-certified second studio album, Jungle Rules. To continue his hot streak, French hopped on Red One’s “Boom Boom” smash, which has over 40 million views on YouTube in just five days.
Earlier this week, the Coke Boys artist took over Samsung’s 837 NYC venue, a special Halloween treat for the couple hundred fans in attendance. French performed a plethora of hits from his decorated catalogue. Beginning with “Ain’t Worried About Nothin,” Montana took control of the stage letting fans finish punch lines to their favorite records. The rest of the 45-minute set included his star-studded “Pop That,” the Chris Brown and Lil Wayne assisted “Loyal” and “Lockjaw.” A special guest was in the building, Harlem’s own A$AP Ferg joined Montana on stage to collaborate on “Work,” sending the crowd into a frenzy. Ferg hung around to rap cuts from his latest album, Still Striving.
— Groovy Network (@GroovyNetwork) November 1, 2017
Laced in a red and black plaid patterned pea coat, the Bronx native finished off his set with his ode to former NFL player Chad Johnson for “Ochocinco,” before getting everyone dancing while lighting up the three-story building with their Samsung phone flashlights as he performed 2017 smash, “Unforgettable.” To cap off the night, Montana teased his upcoming visual for his next single off of Jungle Rules, “Famous.”
Billboard caught up with French Montana prior to the event to find out his inspiration behind Project: Unforgettable, getting his own official day in Miami, building a health center in Uganda, Prodigy‘s impact on his artistry and his favorite Halloween costume over the years.
What did you want to convey to the public with Project: Unforgettable?
French Montana: The documentary was an experience I went through. It was so natural and something I needed to make music. I just felt tired doing the same thing, but when you come from the New York background where mixtapes are albums I did 16 mixtapes. A lot of people don’t see that body of work, because they want to go straight to the top. Everyone wants to be Tupac and Biggie Smalls, but they don’t know what it took to be them. It’s cool to go through that and where I got to the point I’m at now, I wanted something that was going to be different, so I went back to my homeland.
You donated $100,000 to help build the Suubi Health Centre, how’s that coming along?
It’s coming along great, we did it from the heart. Shout out to The Weeknd, Puff Daddy and Ciroc. Every dollar from French Vanilla is going into the hospital and Mama Hope Foundation. Shout out to Global Citizen for letting me be the first rapper to represent this, because they know my heart’s in the right place. It’s just getting bigger and bigger and when people see me doing this they know it’s not a scam. I’m sure more people would join in.
What was it like bringing the Triplets Ghetto Kids over to America for the BET Awards performance and seeing them experience that?
When I first had a dream in Africa I wish somebody could’ve just came and grabbed me, and take me to the land where dreams come true. Not just making music, like you could really become the President, depending on your discipline and work ethic.
This is how God wanted you to be, without politics involved. Let talent be talent, I call it the land of the free. When I saw those kids it struck a nerve, I was like this was me in Africa. If somebody saw my talent in Africa it would’ve been the same with how I saw these kids. I saw my face in their bodies. What they did when they hit that stage, they showed the people this where the talent comes from on the bottom of the map.
I know you’re rolling out the “Famous” visual soon, what do you have planned for that?
We shot that back in my homeland, I felt like I did so much in Uganda helping so many kids. There were people we helped who couldn’t even help themselves. You know how they say you could bring someone to water but you can’t force them to drink? So what we did with the kids — we gave them a platform to go out and make money for the rest of their life. I rather someone show me how to make money rather than give me money.
The video is about when you have something you love so much, and you’re in this industry, you don’t want them to get into it because you see the fake people. When you meet someone real, you have to keep them close. By the time you get a chance to figure out what’s real, you already went through a million hurdles. So I was just like, “I hope you don’t get famous.” That goes to anybody that you love.
You’ve been hopping on some huge records recently. How did you get involved with Red One’s “Boom Boom?”
Shout out to RedOne. He’s definitely one of the biggest stars to come out of Morocco as well, he’s made a lot of history. We were working on a couple records together, and this one was so special that with his vision we shot it in Morocco. I think we’re the number one most viewed video on YouTube in 24 hours. Twenty-one million views in 24 hours, not even “Unforgettable” got that.
You even found your way on to Fifth Harmony‘s “He Like That” remix.
Shout out to Chris Anokute, he’s a part of my label at Epic Records. I’m always in there asking him “when am I doing something with the girls?” Me and him always get into it. Dinah and I are real cool, we just did a movie, “Boom Boom” and a couple records together. I love her style, we always seem to find each other on these hit records. I’m so happy to do the David Guetta single as well, he’s one of my favorite DJs ever. So when he gave me the opportunity on “Dirty Sexy Money,” it was dope.
How does it feel to have your own official day in Miami on October 12?
Shout out to Puff Daddy he never seems to amaze me. I just go do REVOLT and the mayor comes up and tells me I have my own day. We’re going to make it special for next year. So next year I’m telling Puff we’re going to have French Montana day on REVOLT.
Do you have a favorite Halloween costume you’ve been over the years?
The “Don’t Panic” costume with Khloe Kardashian. That’s probably the only costume I’ve ever worn. It was with the “Don’t Panic” video we did and it was really dope.
Khloe on the set of French Montana’s Video for “Don’t Panic” on Wednesday in Paterson, NJ! pic.twitter.com/oGIEL09vep
— ForeverKardash (@KardashianOnly) July 10, 2014
What were your feelings regarding Prodigy‘s passing as a fellow New York artist? I know you guys worked together.
He’s one of the fathers of hip-hop, as far as what Prodigy did for my generation and for me. Prodigy was definitely somebody who inspired my whole rap career.