French Montana Continues to Channel Max B on ‘Wave Gods’
Even though he's been in prison for the past seven years (and will stay there until his Nov. 9, 2042 release date), Max B's legend and legacy has only gotten bigger. Wiz Khalifa and Kanye West briefly beefed because the album that would eventually become The Life of Pablo was titled Waves for a short time, and Wiz proclaimed that Max was the real wavy one. Kanye would record a prison phone call from Biggaveli on the album, and Wiz would release "Silver Surfer" featuring an unreleased Max verse. The Wavy One's influence might be most evident in French Montana's music, with the incarcerated rapper even hosting Montana's latest mixtape, Wave Gods.
French Montana is the closest link the music world has to Max B. The Coke Boys leader has been hustling in the New York street rap scene since the early 2000s, and he was tight with Max for most of that time. Up until Max B had to go away in 2009, the two worked together often, releasing collaborative tapes. Then French started to really break out on the scene shortly after Max was imprisoned, but he's never forgotten their relationship and references it often in his music.
Max B shows up on the mixtape from time to time to shout out French Montana and show love and respect from prison, but his presence is mostly felt through Montana himself. French channels the same wavy, melodic street rap that Max revolutionized and would be making still today. This hazy style might be taken for granted now that it's all over the place, but Max and French were two of the forefathers of the scene.
The Bronx native's rapping has always been a bit polarizing. Lyrically, he hits the same notes of selling dope and hustling on the streets for over a decade now. The thing is he's never tried to be more than that. He raps what he knows and wants to be successful at that. French finds rapping about street life as valid as what any other rapper has to say. He even asks, "Why street rap ain't selling like Kendrick?" on the intro track "Wave Gods."
There is a bit more of a somber tone on Wave Gods than what is familiar fare for French Montana. Not only is his friend and collaborator Max B behind bars, but he's also had to deal with the death of friend and fellow Coke Boy Chinx, who was shot and killed last May. He addresses this directly on "Sanctuary Part 2," the sequel to a track that originally appeared on 2012's Mac & Cheese 3. On the album's closer, a remix of "Off the Rip" featuring A$AP Rocky (another New York rapper influenced by the likes of Max B), he discusses the deaths of Chinx and A$AP Yams. Chinx gets posthumous appearances on that song as well as "All Over."
Many of the mixtape's guest work is in that same realm of wavy, melody-heavy hip-hop. Along with Chinx and Rocky, French finds perfect fits with artists like Quavo, Future, Jadakiss and Travi$ Scott. Kanye shows up on hook duties on "Figure It Out," which also features Nas in a short but great verse, dropping lines like, "I'm a G, I need privacy, media's never kind to me/Niggas beefing on small time things, we on a dyin' spree." The best feature comes from 18-year-old Florida rapper Kodak Black, who is given plenty of space to show off on "Lock Jaw."
A rapper can't call his mixtape wavy without some great atmospheric beats, and Wave Gods has that in spades. From the Kingdom Hearts II-sampling of "Sanctuary Part 2" to "Jackson 5," which flips the title band's "Who's Loving You," the project is filled with memorable production that keeps the project fresh.
Wave Gods as a mixtape isn't going to sound too different from any other French Montana project out there. The new beats and the features that complement French well are what may set it apart in his catalog. As a tribute to Max B, it captures the spirit of the Wavy One as well as you can without him being free. In addition, the emotional resonance that comes from the death of Chinx also plays a role in making this a more memorable experience. If there's one thing this project does extremely well it's pay respect and homage.
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