New York finally has rap superstars in their corner. One half of our cover guys, French Montana, has been gearing the release of his Bad Boy debut Excuse My French for more than a year. After numerous setbacks, French has his sights on May 21 for the project. It’s been quite a long journey but the album looks to be on the way.

To mark the release of our March/April issue that hit newsstands yesterday, XXL wanted to dig way back to French's early days. The Morocco-born, Bronx-raised rapper has built a reputation in the mixtape circuit, releasing more than 20 mixtapes catered to the streets. Of course, that means plenty of those tapes featured deep cuts with his former partner-in-rhyme Max B, his Coke Boys, various NY rappers and more. His catalogue is massive and marks the beginning of his rap career taking shape, from as early as 2007 to the Bad Boy signee we see today.

These are 20 Essential French Montana Mixtape Cuts.—Eric Diep (@E_Diep) and Abrea Armstrong