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


"I'm at Your Wife House"
Mixtape: French Revolution, Vol. 1 (2007)

For everyone who thought French was a novice to the game, this cut proves he was stuntin’ before the co-signs. French is the man and you’re not. Oh, he’ll take your girl too—without question.


"Straight Cash" ft. Shorty Ol' Face
Mixtape: French Revolution, Vol. 1 (2007)

French was all about that trap life. He appealed to all the gangsters in “Straight Cash,” which had rhymes about certain stash spots filled with his earnings. It would later receive a remix by Max B and Gorilla Zoe, serving as another indication that he was already seeing success as a street rapper.


"Waavvy" ft. Max B
Mixtape: Live From Africa (2009)

Frenchie is finally famous. With smooth piano riffs, this track is perfect for celebrating newfound success in the whip with your chick’s hair blowing in the wind.


"Do For Drugs" ft. Max B
Mixtape:  Laundry Man (2008)

Playing off of the classic Bobby Caldwell song “What You Won’t Do For Love”, French and Max B croon out their devotion for “controlled substances”. If you love drugs, then you and French have something in common.


"New York Minute" ft. Jadakiss
Mixtape:  Mac Wit Da Cheese (2009)

Anything could happen in a New York minute. French lists the endless possibilities of how life can change for the better or worse so suddenly. With Jadakiss’ signature sound, this track is for whenever you need a bit of hip-hop motivation.


"Henny & My 44"
Mixtape:  Mac Wit Da Cheese (2009)

This track is an affirmation of everything Montana stands for. He lets you know in this hustler’s anthem that the game never stops by saying, “I’m anywhere the dope go with my Henny and my 44.” Enough said.


"Dem Girls" ft. Al Pac
Mixtape:  Cocaine Konvicts (2009)

French serenades his favorite dime pieces on “Dem Girls.” It’s not lyrically his best effort, but it was another moment on Cocaine Konvicts that best represented what he stood for. Even as a rapper who weaved drug-dealing tales, he was at his most vulnerable by showing his softer side.


"I'm On It" ft. Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, & Nipsey Hussle
Mixtape:  Mac & Cheese 2 (2010)

When four XXL Freshmen are on one track, mayhem is sure to ensue. Big Sean steals the show with his undeniable flows but who doesn’t love a solid posse cut?


"Choppa Choppa Down" ft. Waka Flocka Flame
Mixtape:  Coke Boys (2010)

“Choppa' choppa' down/I lay a nigga down/Choppa' choppa' break it down.” Before Waka Flocka Flame and French Montana collaborated on a full-length LP, they were releasing loose bangers such as this one. “Choppa Down” would get huge looks from Wiz Khalifa, Gucci Mane and more on the remix that makes it one of French’s earliest hits.


"We Run NY" ft. Fat Joe
Mixtape:  Coke Boys (2010)

Just about every rapper living in New York has claimed they ran the city once in their career. When French and Joey put their stamp on the statement, it almost sounds too convincing. “We Run NY” is a gritty affair that has the duo trading gangsterisms about putting on the Big Apple. There are also a few shout outs legendary MCs like KRS-One and MC Shan, which shows it is a proper homage to the greats.


"Shot Caller" ft. Charlie Rock
Mixtape:  Coke Boys 2 (2011)

Quite possibly French’s biggest hit was “Shot Caller,” a early regional hit that gained national attention during his beginning stages as a signed artist at Bad Boy. Producer Harry Fraud was responsible for the song’s bass-laden beat and the two high rollers kept the energy flowing with their effortless verses. Lines like, “shorty got potential, I could be her sponsor/Met her backstage at a summer jam concert” got everyone rapping along.


"Everything's a Go"
Mixtape:  Mister 16 (Casino Life) (2011)

Things were looking good for French. Reviving a track from the much slept-on Mister 16 (Casino Life), he released “Everything’s a Go” to build anticipation for his debut album, Excuse My French. The track’s video that features French, his MMG buddies, and cameos from Swizz Beatz and DJ Khaled, amassed over 1,600,000 views on YouTube. It just goes to show that everyone was riding the coke wave early on.


"We Mobb" ft. Waka Flocka Flame & Prodigy
Mixtape:  Lock Out (2011)

Waka Flocka Flame reignites his South Jamaica, Queens roots over a classic Mobb Deep cut, "Hell on Earth." French and Prodigy would follow suit with their own slick-talking verses. Real fans of East Coast rap will be pleased that all three delivered a flurry of solid rhymes and didn’t disappoint.


"Money, Weed, Blow" ft. Juicy J & Project Pat
Mixtape:  Cocaine Mafia (2011)

Juicy J, Project Pat and French Montana crafted the ideal hustler’s track on their joint mixtape, Cocaine Mafia. “Money, Weed, Blow” hits all the right staples of getting fast cash. The hook also brags about moving said drugs that “pimpin’ and lots of hoes” are sure to come. While few rappers can pull off authenticity, Juicy, Project Pat and French prove their street cred can provide an anthem at its finest.


"I'm a Coke Boy" ft. French Montana
Mixtape:  Cocaine Riot 2 (2012)

Technically, “Im a Coke Boy” helped Coke Boys member Chinx Drugz create his own lane as a solo artist. However, the song felt more French’s than Chinx Drugz’, mainly due to the song’s catchy hook that had the streets on lock. There’s an old saying that you can be anything if you put your mind to it. Apparently, these two kept it real as a “mother****in coke boy.”


"Headquarter" ft. Chinx Drugz & Red Café
Mixtape:  Coke Boys 3 (2012)

One of the many gems off Coke Boys 3, “Headquarters” features two of his frequent collaborators—Red Café and Chinx Drugz—who bolstered some powerful rhymes. In another display of the trio’s chemistry, “Headquarters” tell us that they don’t take kindly to haters.


"Off the Boat" ft. Rick Ross
Mixtape:  Rich Forever (2012)

Rick Ross seems to have an endless supply of drug-dealing anthems. “Off the Boat” was originally on Ross’ track on Rich Forever, but French ended up running with it. As how bosses would conduct business, French and Rozay talk big on how they get weight from straight from the source. It is another heater that is worth checking for.


Mixtape:  Mac & Cheese 3 (2012)

“Sanctuary” is a rare moment where French takes a somber direction. Produced by Black Metaphor, the song features an sped-up vocal sample that’s a perfect for French to lament about “all the money he is staring it.” Everyone has his or her calming place and his is right near the money.


"Ocho Cinco" ft. MGK, Los, Red Café & Diddy
Mixtape:  Mac & Cheese 3 (2012)

Diddy’s Bad Boy roster hasn’t properly dropped a posse cut yet. To hold their own next to G.O.O.D. Music’s “Clique” or MMG’s “Power Circle,” the crew dropped “Ocho Cinco, a celebratory standout from Mac & Cheese 3. The all-star lineup of MGK, Red Café, Los and Diddy deliver on some booming production by Young Chop.


"Marble Floors" ft. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne
Mixtape:  Mike Will Made It Est. In 1989 Pt 2.5 (2012)

French followed up his strip-club smash "Pop That" with “Marble Floors,” which was slated to appear on Excuse My French. The Mike Will Made It-produced track features all of his frequent collaborators—Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz—spitting gargantuan boasts on taking your girl. Although it didn’t have a big impact like “Pop That,” the song is an undeniable banger. Swagger-talking and luxurious raps never sounded this good.

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