French Montana and the case of the missing crossover | Bleader

French Montana and the case of the missing crossover



It's been a widespread belief amongst hip-hop heads for years that all that had to happen for French Montana to become a mainstream pop star was for someone to finally put out his long-delayed official debut album. His ever-growing catalog of mixtapes had completely won over large swaths of the rap world, and T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of his Coke Boys crew are a common sight in New York, where he hails from. He's a hard worker with a drive to succeed that's notable even in a milieu where outsize ambition is standard issue, and he's a highly refined pop sensibility, and he'd already won over the toughest listeners in the rap-buying demographic. With two advance singles that made it onto the Hot 100, "Freaks" and "Pop That," it seemed like Excuse My French, which was released on May 21, was the final step in an inevitable pop crossover.

Two weeks later Excuse My French sits atop both the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and the Rap Albums charts, but there's not a single French Montana song in the Hot 100. Not even a guest appearance.

It is, needless to say, a major bummer for French Montana boosters and a major win for the "please shut up about French Montana" contingent. It's also proof that while mixtapes are becoming one of the most important vectors by which rappers (and other types of musicians) can find pop success (which is something I discuss in my latest Reader story), it's still not a seamless path. Even as rap has become the dominant force in pop music, popularity with the type of motivated rap listener who seeks it out out on mixtapes doesn't necessarily translate to popularity with the passive type who finds it via the radio.

But French has built a pretty substantial career for himself without that latter sort of listener. And honestly, he makes better music when he's not aiming it at them. Excuse My French is a strong album, but it doesn't have anywhere close to the electrical crackle of last year's crew mixtape Coke Boys 3 mixtape. Excuse My French sold just 56,000 copies its first week out. Coke Boys 3 has accumulated over 700,000 downloads and 2.6 million views on in the year since its release. I doubt that a year from now Excuse My French will have the same numbers. I wonder if by then French will even be thinking about making a second official album.

Miles Raymer writes about what's on the charts on Tuesday.