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Hip-hop has had its share of protégés who turn into full-blown rap stars—Jay Z and Kanye West, Birdman and Lil Wayne and A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg have all played the role of the mentor and mentee in recent years. The results are often successful, giving the hungry up-and-coming rapper their platform to shine. Sometimes, they seize that opportunity with an undeniable run consisting of sold-out shows, hit records and critically acclaimed mixtapes.

In that vein, French Montana is stepping into the shadows and allowing his righthand man Chinx to take center stage. Off the strength of his Cocaine Riot series and 2012’s “I'm A Coke Boy,” the rapper who recently wiped the "Drugz" from his moniker is emerging quickly on his own. With his new EP I’ll Take You From Here available on iTunes, XXL got down with the former Riot Squad member to talk about meeting French, his style, and why it's still Stack Bundles over everything. Class is now in session. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)

You’ve been holding down Far Rockaway for a minute. What’s the reaction to your movement and growth back home?
They show me hella love. Where I’m from, they love me in my town. RIP to my brother Stack Bundles. He set the groundwork and he pretty much made it possible for me to get out here and keep doing my thing 'cause he kept everybody familiar with my name. It took about three years for me to stand on my own two [feet] and start busting my own moves. But, that’s just the groundwork. When you in a team, when you playing team ball, it’s one captain on the team at the time. And French put the thing together. When I came home from prison, he just gave me a vehicle to get on. I always tip my hat to my big homie for that.

How did you and French meet?
My brother Stack Bundles, rest in peace. I was in the group called the Riot Squad. That’s where I started out. Me, Bino, Cau2Gs and Stack Bundles. The four of us. When I got incarcerated, Jim Jones wanted to work with Stack. So, they formed a crew called the Byrd Gang, which was Stack Bundles, Max B and Jim Jones. So when I came home, Stack passed away and Max B was still home fighting his murder case and shit. Max B sought after me. One of his homies saw me in the club when I went to see Max. Stack knew Max and Max knew French. That’s how I met French, at Max B’s house. Max B is serving 75 years now, but me and French just continued to keep working. That’s how we formed the Coke Boys and just kept banging.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from French?
I definitely learned to be yourself. Just be you. If it feels right here, you’ll feel great about it. No matter what the outcome is, you’ll be able to deal with it. Also, we young. Me and French are the same age. I just look much younger than he does. [Laughs] I watched French. We young niggas in the game. We coming up and we trying to keep these millions in the family. I watch all his mistakes. Every good businessman makes bad mistakes. I watched his mistakes and I got to watch him firsthand.

What do you think is your style? Is New York hip-hop lacking right now?
I don’t think New York is lacking style. I just think we're the creators of this shit. I think even we subconsciously [are] just a little tired of the routine, the tradition. We want to switch it up a bit. If you go to my old mixtapes, the old Hurry Up And Dies and the old Riot Squads tapes that we used to do, you'll see back then that I had a Midwestern, Southern flow twang with my shit. That was almost 10 years ago. This was a long time ago. Three 6 Mafia was one of my favorite groups. I love Juicy J. I know you probably hear the flow, the new flow that everybody is doing? I started that, but I can’t take full credit for it because I took that shit 10 years ago from Juicy J. Now Future got the “Karate Chop.” Shout out to Meek Mill and Nicki and Fab. It just shows that people paying attention and I can come into the game and create. I wouldn’t say I have a style. That '90s New York rap shit is in there on top of whatever I am bringing. So, my style is very versatile.

Nobody can deny “I'm A Coke Boy” was big. Do you ever regret making it?
Nah, it’s our anthem. I have the anthem. Just like Juelz had “Dipset! Dipset! Dipset!” I got the anthem to our movement, so I love it. At the time when that record came out, the record was so dope and unfortunately I wasn’t ready and well-equipped on the business side as an artist to get behind the record and really start [pushing it]. Now, I got the new single, “Feelings,” and it’s catching way more damage than “I'm A Coke Boy.”

Tell me about “Feelings.”
“Feelings” is definitely going to be a bigger record. It’s a real record. I was going through a real situation when I made this song, so it just came out the right way. I was going through some personal—you know, dealing with the industry. People feel like people owe them things. No one owes you shit at the end of the day. What you kill, you eat. If I ain’t kill it, I can’t eat it. You just gotta come to that realization and say, “You know what man? I just gotta put this leather skin on and get out here and just get mine.” I can’t worry about what’s going on around me. It’s gonna happen when it’s gonna happen.

Because if I am complaining, who are you going to complain to? They can’t help you anyway. You do all the work. So, it’s to no avail. So fuck your feelings. Who gives a fuck? And let’s keep pushing man. Everybody else got their own problems going on. It’s not like nobody cares about your problems, they really don’t have time to get into your problems. Toughen up. Just get your money.

Why aren’t you calling yourself Chinx Drugz anymore?
I’m always going to be Chinx Drugz. Right now, I am just Chinx. On paper, I am just Chinx. Ma$e was Murda Ma$e. He had to drop the Murda to get the other look. Like I said, Pepsi wouldn’t do any other deals with Chinx Drugz. I let it go.

Chinx is actually an acronym. When you in prison, you just got a lot of time to think about all types of shit. Chinx is an acronym for Coward-Hearted Individuals Never Exist. Basically, if you scared, you ain’t gonna get what you trying to get out here. No point in holding back. Just get it.

You are putting out your new EP for purchase. French’s Excuse My French was known to have low album sales. Did you take that into consideration when you were putting out yours?
First week album sales, it’s cute. But when you coming up with your first album, people come up later. When French did whatever how many thousand he did it was like, Future did the same thing. And now, Future is everything right now to the radio. So that doesn’t define you as an artist. That’s your first thing. But like I said, French’s movement and just him as an artist are way bigger still than album sales. His real fans don’t give a fuck about how many albums he sells. He still one of the hottest niggas in the game right now. That’s what matters. It’s the longevity.

Stack Bundles meant a lot to you. Do you still live by the code, “Stack Bundles Forever?” Everything you do, is it in honor of him?
Yeah, I wasn’t even going to do this anymore until I got home and I realized the effect he had on New York. Not just New York, [but] on his fans and people who listened to his music. He was our Tupac. Our Biggie. It was weird. He just kept my name alive. He gave me a little platform to stand up and keep moving. People love him out here and I didn’t want to let that die. So, this is for him, his family at the end of the day. That’s why we keep it moving.