A Moroccan-American rapper who built an indie empire with his Cocaine City imprint, French Montana rose from the New York mixtape underground in the 2000s to emerge as a pop-savvy hip-hop artist in the 2010s. Starting with his 2013 debut album Excuse My French, he became known for his high-profile collaborations and a handful of chart hits including “Unforgettable” from his platinum-certified 2017 sophomore release Jungle Rules. 2019’s double-LP Montana was another showcase for big-name guests that featured hit singles “No Stylist” and “Writing on the Wall.”
Born Karim Kharbouch in Morocco, he immigrated to the U.S. while in his teens. He set up shop in the Bronx and began releasing his Cocaine City series of DVDs in 2002, mixing interviews with established hip-hop artists and unsigned talent. In 2009 he began releasing his own mixtape CDs with DJs like Evil Empire, DJ Drama, and Big Mike as his hosts. That same year he would be signed to Akon’s Konvict Musik label, but in late 2011 it was announced that they had parted ways and that Montana was signing to both P. Diddy’s Bad Boy and Rick Ross’ Maybach Music imprints in a unique joint venture. His 2012 single, “Pop That,” would be the first release for the united labels, while 2013 saw the release of his debut album, Excuse My French. A series of mixtapes, each with an increasing R&B influence, brought Montana to 2016, when he dropped Casino Life 2: Brown Bag Legend. The mixtape included the hit single “Moses,” featuring Chris Brown and Migos. A full LP — MC4 — was slated for the end of the year, but after the album was leaked by a retailer months before its official release, Montana scrapped the rollout entirely and issued it as a mixtape. MC4 (aka “Mac & Cheese 4”) featured appearances by the Weeknd, Drake, Jeezy, A$AP Rocky, Kodak Black, Miguel, Nas, Kanye West, DJ Khaled, Beanie Sigel, Jadakiss, Styles P, the Alchemist, Max B, and Chinx. The following year, Montana returned with his official sophomore effort, Jungle Rules. The LP included guests like the Weeknd, Travis Scott, Pharrell Williams, Quavo, Future, T.I., and Young Thug. Lead single “Unforgettable” with Swae Lee became a hit, topping the Billboard rap chart and climbing into the Top Three of the R&B and main singles list. The album itself, certified gold in the U.S., debuted at number three on the Billboard 200.
In 2018, Montana joined with Diplo, Lil Pump, and Zhavia Ward for the bombastic single “Welcome to the Party” from the Deadpool 2 soundtrack, which returned him to the Hot 100. Additional singles — “No Stylist” with Drake and “Slide” with Blueface and Lil Tjay — were also chart hits, carrying Montana into 2019. Those latter tracks later landed on his third effort, which was issued toward the end of the year on the same day he was released from hospitalization in the ICU. A double-album, Montana, boasted an impressive cast of guests, including Juicy J (“50’s & 100’s”), Swae Lee (on the “Unforgettable” sequel “Out of Your Mind”), and Post Malone and Cardi B (“Writing on the Wall”). Upon release, the LP debuted at number 25 on the Billboard 200. The next year, he returned to his mixtape roots with C.O.K.E. Boys 5. 2021 also saw the relaese of stand-alone single “FWMGAB.”