French Montana

French Montana (May 20, 2013)

***1/2 (out of four)

The perpetually delayed release of French Montana’s debut full-length “Excuse My French” has become a running joke among rap fans. Yet while it’s amazing the record is finally here, it's a borderline miracle that “French” is actually awesome.

Like his fellow torchbearer of contemporary New York hip-hop A$AP Rocky, French Montana is not a particularly memorable rapper, nor one who has many ties to any local sound. His voice is unremarkably gravelly, his delivery is blocky and his lyrics stick to the obvious. Plus, albums like “Excuse My French,” which relies on a different producer for nearly every track and features multiple label rosters worth of guests, have a tendency to become bloated, over-budget messes without any sense of fun.

In this case, though, French Montana's wise decision to keep the blustering tone consistent holds the album together. We're spared any terrible, for-the-ladies slow jams, dubstep crossovers or introspective lyricism in favor of an unmatched devotion to pan-regional music about strippers made to be yelled along with while standing on couches.

French Montana is very rarely the best part of a French Montana song, and his approach reflects knowledge of this fact by taking us on a mixtape-style tour through his extensive contact list. The album makes nods to Atlanta trends on songs like “Trap House” and “Ain't Worried About Nothin'” before stopping through Miami for a DJ Khaled posse cut on “[Bleep] What Happens Tonight,” borrowing a single from Chicago's Johnny Maycash and Young Chop on “Paranoid” and visiting the extra-governmental strip club protectorate YMCMB calls home on “Pop That” and “Freaks.”

There's a song with The Weeknd that, well, sounds like a Weeknd song and a great song with Raekwon that manages to not make French Montana look like an idiot alongside one of the most dexterous lyricists ever. French Montana's best lyrical moments are blurted rather than carefully constructed (“I skipped prayer just to make money/I hope God forgives me, man I was hungry”), but that type of straightforwardness is why his album works as well as it does. “Excuse My French” shoots for little more than sounding great played really loud, and it accomplishes exactly that.

Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic

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