French Montana has been riding the wave since his days as a business partner and close collaborator to revered Harlem rapper Max B. While the latter — who appeared on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo album after inspiring a Twitter feud between him and Wiz Khalifa — is currently serving a 75-year prison sentence, French is keeping the influence of Max B front and center on his latest mixtape offering Wave Gods — a smooth sound trip that boasts contributions from Kanye, Nas, Travis Scott and Big Sean.
While the emoji generation has become more hip to the term “wave” (Kanye contemplated naming his album Waves before flipping it to The Life of Pablo), it reaches back to French Montana and Max B’s Coke Wave mixtapes, a two-part series that launched in 2008. “Wavy” referenced the street MC’s laid-back flow, often cartoonish yet comical personality and sing-rap style, a formula that the aforementioned Wiz recently co-signed on Twitter. “He’s the reason I sing on all my songs. That’s the wave,” he tweeted.
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Beyond looking out for Max B (French revealed in an interview with Hot 97 that Kanye wants to help the incarcerated rapper with his legal woes), the Coke Boys leader is also keeping the memory of late C.B. rhymer Chinx Drugs alive in his music, including a special remix of “Off the Rip” co-starring A$AP Rocky. In the song’s music video, projections of both A$AP Yams — the Mob co-founder who passed away last year — and Chinx play across the screen as the New York spitters tribute their fallen friends. Scott Disick, the Kardashian affiliate who hangs frequently with French, also makes a cameo in the Spiff-directed video, which debuts on Tuesday (Feb. 23).
During a pit stop at Billboard HQ, French discussed Max B’s legacy, the stacked guest list for Mac & Cheese the album and his new foray into acting. He also reveals that there were plans to do a joint collaboration with Future prior to his What a Time to Be Alive delivery with Drake and unite Wiz Khalifa and Max B for a record on MC4.
What was the concept of Wave Gods?
Just going back to the authenticity of the music — the soul of the music we was making: Coke [Boy] waves, Mac & Cheese, it’s kinda just a set up for [the album].
Did you already have this Wave Gods title before Kanye considered naming his album Waves?
Yeah, I already had Max B drops. Everything was already set.
How does it feel seeing all the attention Max B is getting since he’s been your long-time collaborator?
It’s kinda real dope just to see that the wave live on forever and for him to still have such a big impact on music.
What’s the conversation like when you talk to Max B about everything that’s going on?
To him, it’s a kind of form of flattery. You know, for somebody as big as Kanye doing that [on The Life of Pablo], I think [Max] love it. There’s no other way to embrace it but with love.
You have both Kanye and Nas on “Figure It Out.” How did you end up putting those two on a record?
Actually, me and Kanye was working on a bunch of records. Then me and Nas was working on a record for his movie [The Land.]
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You also have Future on “Miley Cyrus.” You’ve worked with Miley previously. Did you consider reaching out to have her on the track?
I don’t think I reached out to her to get on it ‘cause the concept of the song was a little different so I was like keep her out of there but shout out to Miley. She’s a great friend. I actually had Future on Mac & Cheese 3. Me and Future was supposed to do a mixtape before he did it with Drake.
Is there an opportunity to still do that in the future?
Yeah, you never know. Me and Future — we in the studio. You never know. But yeah, got Travis Scott and Big Sean on [Wave Gods], Chinx Drugs and of course, Puff. I just kinda wanted to get everybody I usually work with.
What’s the vibe sound like for Puff’s No Way Out 2? I know that’s his last project.
Yeah, his last chapter. I think he in the studio now — cooking up. He got everybody on the hunt for music. Puff is Puff. He always comes out on top. I’m just glad to be a part of everything that’s coming out.
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What was it like putting together the “Off The Rip” remix with Chinx and A$AP Rocky, given both of your recent losses?
It was dope. That was a record that Chinx had gave me before he passed away. [Pauses] It’s just a record that means something and A$AP Rocky — he had somebody that passed away too that was like his brother so when we shot the video, that was the concept. We just wanted to do something for New York. A$AP [Mob] and Coke Boys is like the same thing — it’s like us trying to share that same experience with him having somebody pass [away] and me having somebody pass [away] — just put ‘em both into the song and make our brothers live on forever.
Listening to Wave Gods or even Mac & Cheese, what do you hope they learn about French as an artist?
It’s that all these new sounds that’s been coming out — it’s been our sounds. You know it feels like we just haven’t dropped music so people get to shake and bake a little bit but I feel like it’s our sound. That’s why the tape is doing so crazy. I just want people to know this is what we do. This is what we do in our sleep — it’s the wave music with the vibes.
Were you involved as Kanye was piecing together The Life of Pablo?
In and out. Here and there. Me and Puff would see him. Me and him been working even before he came out with this album. We have like two other records and we about to get back in the lab.
Who are you recruiting for Mac & Cheese the Album?
I have Miguel on the album. I have a song with me, Beanie Sigel, Styles P and Kiss.
Was that a wish list collaboration or something that randomly came together?
I put ‘em together — the hardest, the grimiest.
What’s that track called?
“Mercy.” I got A$AP Rocky on there [for a track called either] “Dead and Gone” or “Down and Out,” something like that. That’s about it as far as features.
Is this album done?
Did you take any different approaches as far as experimenting with new sounds?
Nah, I mean for all my music, it’s the same vibe. I never change nothing. Whatever the Wave Gods sound like, Mac & Cheese gon’ sound like.
Wiz Khalifa was praising Max B heavily on Twitter. Did you watch it all unfold? What were your thoughts on that?
He might be on Mac & Cheese [the album]. Me, him and Max B on one song.
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You’re also tackling movie roles. What’s it like being in front of the lens versus making music?
Whole lot different. Just the movie coming out March 11 — Perfect Match. We just got finished with our own movie today [called] Respect The Shooter.
Who are you working with on that?
Chris Brown, Michael Williams, Snoop from The Wire, a bunch of people, Fabolous in there. It’s a great lineup. The movie’s about somebody not respecting the shooter, not knowing he’s the mastermind. Usually, the boss don’t do the dirty work [but] the guy gotta do the dirty work and [be the] boss.