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French Montana & The Coke Boys, Coke Boys 3

“Rappin’ never been part of the plan/Gettin’ bricks 35, Kevin Durant,” French Montana admits, in a half-baked monotone, on “Headquarter,” from his latest musical venture, Coke Boys 3. The revelation that the 2012 XXL Freshman hasn’t had rapper aspirations his entire life shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who’s heard any of his records. And that’s not a knock. The truth is, this sort of cavalier admission, mixed with mindless dope boy posturing, reflects exactly why French has been resonating with fans and rappers, and landed a deal with Bad Boy late last year following a major label bidding war. He’s rich in a particular asset that, in 2012, can be more important than lyricism or even an ear for strong production: a magnetic persona.

The Bronx-bred rapper has brought his Coke Boy cronies Flip, Cheeze, Chinx Drugz, and Charlie Rock along for the ride here for a collective effort. The gang show up kicking bars full of run-of-the-mill tomgoonery, and while the lines and their authors aren’t particularly foul, French’s cohorts aren’t able to stand out on the project, either. There are other guest spots that compliment French well. A sample flip of Wu Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M” is bolstered with an assist from Wale, and Bad Boy colleague Red Café impresses on “Headquarter” before French takes over on the moaning hook, “Ahhhhh, I be so high, and that bullshit don’t bother meeee.”

What’s especially impressive is how French has grown to be able to anchor songs ranging from Rick Ross-esque street bangers (“Dirty Money”) to laid back summertime gems like the Harry Fraud-produced “Tap That,” featuring the late Stack Bundles. Even the lackluster songs here fall into a “so bad it’s good,” intangible category. A five minute skit entitled “Pussy Quint” (Um…Just listen to it for yourself) is followed with the dancehall inspired “Husband and Wife,” and “100” samples Adele’s “Fire To The Rain.” While neither are the tape’s strongest cuts, they’re still rife with comedic moments courtesy of the Bad Boy signee, with lines like “Hittin’ Key West/That’s a muthafucka, Delonte West.”

Omnipresent throughout French’s sound is the influence of his pal Max B, but French has already been able to take it to a level Max B didn’t reach before his untimely incarceration. What this all adds up to is French Montana’s developing character within the hip-hop landscape which mirrors early stages of careers like Rozay’s. (He’s even got the infectious “Coke Boy Baby” tag, similar to Ross’ “Maybach Music” drop.) The idea of French Montana is appealing; so, by extension listeners want to enjoy his music. With Coke Boys 3, he makes that easy. —Neil Martinez – Belkin (@Neil_MB)

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