What French Montana has always lacked in technical ability, he’s made up for with personality. French is a stone cold charmer; a Waka Flocka Flame with less energy in many ways. Like Waka, his approach to music is similar to that of a high school football jock who decides he can do anything—act in plays, do well academically, and invevitably, rap— so he does it all in an earnest and sincere way. Even when it’s ridiculous, he’s still going for it. French has been able to stick around all these years because he’s a likable guy who everybody (from Raekwon to Nicki Minaj to The Weeknd, all of whom appear here) wants to hang out with, even if he isn’t really breaking any new ground.
But, none of this is to say Excuse My French isn’t good. As an artist, he’s got swag to spare and enough of a presence to carry songs on his own (a bizarre recurring argument that doesn’t stick). He’s also got a knack for beat selection, however the absence of French’s longtime producer Harry Fraud on the album is confusing. Standouts include the gritty banger “Marble Floors,” swag anthem “Ballin’ Out” and the album’s darkest and most introspective track “Gifted.” The Max B-featuring “Once In A While” is an epic opener, though it’s a high-point that sets up listeners for an experience French can’t quite deliver on for the remaining 17 tracks. But to be fair, maintaining such a high energy level is an impossible feat – how do you build to anything when your entire record is one long climax?
For every artistic, deep-thinking rhymer in hip-hop, you need someone like French Montana, who can balance out the ratchet equilibrium of the genre, so taken at face value—as a fun record filled with turn-up anthems—Excuse My French is a good album, possibly the best one the Coke Boy could make. There’s enough big boasts and big beats here to carry French’s charm, which is really all you could ask for with a debut LP from the Bad Boy. —Dan Buyanovsky