When it comes to American-based hip-hop artists, few have the global influence of French Montana. The Moroccan-born rapper emigrated to the United States at 13 and began making waves in The Bronx streets in 2007 with his first mixtape, French Revolution Vol. 1.
A year later, French began professing his pride in his home country and heritage via the 2008 LP, Live from Africa, which would also be the first project to drop from his then-newly-founded record label Cocaine City Records. After years of dropping hot mixtapes and other projects with fellow luminaries like DJ Drama, Max B, Waka Flocka Flame, and others, French signed a joint-venture recording deal with Bad Boy Records and Maybach Music Group.
And while French Montana has made many waves in the United States for his witty bars and adlibs, he’s been a savant of the global music scene. Even dating back to his earlier projects, he’s collaborated with figures worldwide and embraced the African continent, which perhaps came to a head in 2017 when he traveled to Uganda to shoot his “Unforgettable” music video.
Aside from the shoot, Montana was introduced to local advocate Denis Muwanguzi from the Suubi Health Center in Budondo. According to Global Citizen, the facility had only five rooms and one ambulance to service over 300,000 people. This not only led to the rapper donating $100,000 of his own money but also using his platform and voice to launch the #2BStrong petition calling on the African Union to prioritize universal health coverage. This subsequently led Ugandan Member of Parliament Boby Wine to announce that he would prioritize such a health system.
More recently, French Montana joined forces with CARE and Global Citizen to raise funds for the victims of the devastating earthquake in his native Morocco, pledging $100,000 personally during the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards toward relief efforts.
Musically, Montana has been a streaming and sales monster. To date, he’s landed two songs in the Top 10 of the Hot 100 chart, and between 17 tracks, he’s spent 200 weeks on the chart since 2012, according to Billboard. During a 2017 interview with the charting entity and music publication, he “promised my mother that I would hustle and make my accomplishments unforgettable once I found my opportunity.”
Earlier this year, French Montana was named the most streamed African-born artist in history. By February, the “All The Way Up” rapper had amassed more than 40 billion digital spins, mostly from the several multiplatinum records he’s released, which appeal to not only American audiences but to fans worldwide.
In honor of French Montana’s birthday this week (November 9), we’ve listed five songs that exemplify his global presence. Check them out below.
“No Stylist” (feat. Drake)
Quickly going platinum, “No Stylist” is one of the few collaborations between French and Drake, and while it didn’t climb the charts as much as other songs by the rapper, it did do well overseas. In the UK, it peaked as high as number five and ranked in the top forty in countries like Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland.
“Finesse (Remix)” Pheelz (feat. French Montana)
In late 2022, Nigerian afrobeat star and legendary producer Pheelz’s hit “Finesse” was continuing to make waves in the international realm, so not only was it an opportunity for French to get on the song, but he fit like a glove after we heard his verse. It’s a collaboration Pheelz told us about during an interview earlier this year. “That was an incredible man because making the song in my room in Lagos, me listening to the original recording, I never thought the song was going to get to these heights. I knew it was a banger, like I knew it was going to smack but I had no idea it was going to be on this level. Having French on it was really incredible and I was so excited that I wrote a new verse.”
“Unforgettable” (feat. Swae Lee)
Traveling to Uganda in 2017 to record the music video for “Unforgettable,” French Montana, along with Swae Lee, proved they were men of the people. Also, the former pledged a six-figure donation to help bolster the hospital and medical facilities in Budondo. “Unforgettable” is also perhaps French’s most famous and critically acclaimed song he’s released to date.
“Welcome To The Party” Diplo, French Montana & Lil Pump (feat. Zhavia Ward)
Originally featured on the soundtrack of Deadpool 2, “Welcome to the Party” brought many musical factions together as it joined more traditional hip-hop with the newer stylings of Lil Pump, the singing of Zhavia Ward, and the electronic production of Diplo. While it’s quite different from a normal hit, the song did well commercially, peaking at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and also hit the top 40 among European nations like the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.
Arriving in 2021, French Montana released “FWMGAB” (aka “F**k With Me Get a Bag”), which samples Jerry Rivera’s “Amores Como El Nuestro,” which pop fans may know from 2006’s “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira and Wyclef Jean. It’s a successful attempt by French to make a hit influenced by the sounds and cultures from below the border, and it slaps.