Throughout his career, French Montana’s confidence has served as his anchor. With a plethora of hits to his name, it’s hard to dismiss his presence in hip-hop, especially since he’s been able to bridge the gap between street acclaim and Hot 100 success.
So when Montana said a few weeks ago that he could compete with the likes of Kendrick Lamar in a hit-for-hit battle, he didn’t mince words. The Coke Boys commander stood firm in his position that he could hold his own, even after his Young Thug verbal skirmish escalated to an all-out beef on social media.
“When it’s competition, it shouldn’t be no fans leaning towards one side, it should be judged by who got the best work,” Montana tells Billboard. “Let’s not just ice the person out before you think about the question or make a decision after you know what the question is. There’s a lot of people caught up in this amnesia game, saying like, ‘You’re only as good as your last hit.’ At the end of the day, we’ve been dropping so many [hits], but we had to stay consistent so many years, and people forget how many joints we got.”
Montana’s latest hit bids include recent releases “That’s a Fact” and his Tory Lanez-assisted song “Cold.” The Lanez collaboration serves as their first together and comes after they competed in a hit-for-hit battle in March, in which the Chixtape star declared Montana the winner.
As for “That’s a Fact,” Montana’s drill-inspired record will soon have a remix featuring Future and Brooklyn upstart Fivio Foreign. Several weeks ago, Foreign called out Montana for not supporting new artists out of New York. Rather than engaging in more warfare, Montana and Foreign had a conversation to squash the beef and teamed up for the song’s remix.
“Ma$e called me with Fivio on three-way and shout-out to Fivio. I’m like, ‘Bro. I was with you in the studio. I support New York artists. I can’t even see you? Why don’t you just hit up my line?’ He was like, ‘Bro, I’m sorry. It’ll never happen again. You don’t gotta worry about it.”
For Montana — who has been observing Ramadan in recent weeks — preserving peace remains a priority. Last month, he and Jim Jones buried the hatchet after feuding for more than a decade. Montana tells Billboard he wishes their quarrel ended sooner, because he would have enjoyed a Coke Boy / Dipset Tour when his signee and close friend, Chinx, was still alive.
“I think the opportunity with doing something cultural would have been more effective than us beefing,” says Montana. “There’s nothing that we gained from beefing besides [Max B] locked up and a bunch of dumb sh-t we ain’t really need. Everything happens for a reason, but I think it would have been more for the culture.”
While French has been able to settle his scores with Fivio and Jim Jones, he admittingly does have a bone to pick with his “Unforgettable” collaborator Swae Lee. After an interview with Everyday Struggle in which Montana said that he was responsible for structuring the multi-platinum single, Lee took offense to his statement and commented “cap” under DJ Akademiks’ post.
Subsequently, Montana looked to ease the tension by reminding Swae that their record is approaching diamond status and that they have no reason to argue over the creation of the song. Lee then said on Twitter that he still had the “OG version” of the song to debunk Montana’s claims.
I have the OG version
— Swae Exotic (@SwaeLee) April 28, 2020
“I love Swae Lee,” Montana says. “No problem with him. He never did nothing to me. All I was saying, my brother, is if you had the original version, and I put my verse on it in certain places, that means I structured the song, right? What am I saying wrong?”
After Montana tells Billboard he wasn’t trying to take credit for “Unforgettable,” he refers back to a session he had with DJ Paul at Marley Marl’s studio. There, he claims he helped produced his record “50’s & 100’s” and Rae Sremmurd’s 2018 hit “Powerglide,” which reached No. 28 on the Hot 100 chart. Montana was not credited on the latter, though he says he gifted the rap duo the record after his time with Paul.
“They come in, Swae Lee did a verse on it,” he recalls. “After I produced it, ask me if I had made one percent off that? I’m the one that came with the whole idea. I’m the one that came up with everything. Gave it to DJ Paul and Juicy J. They produced it,” says Montana. “Do you think I came after them to get anything, but now that he said that, I’m coming to get my piece. I need my piece of ‘Powerglide.’ I made it.”
Montana then brings up what he calls “Unforgettable Pt. 2,” which was Swae Lee’s 2018 single “Guatemala.” “If I didn’t structure the song, then what happened when they put out ‘Unforgettable Pt. 2’ [with] ‘Guatemala?’ How come that didn’t sell 9 million? You said it was the sequel to ‘Unforgettable.’ You did, right? Look how they do me. I do ‘Unforgettable,’ they take me out. He replaced me with somebody else. Comes out with a part two [and] I never took it no way. So guess what, if I never did nothing to the first one my brother, and you came out with part two, God bless you my brother, do your thing. All I did was I structured the first one, and what I meant by structured the first one is where I put my verse.”
Listen to the full interview to see if Montana is open to doing another song with Swae Lee, his favorite Drake collaboration, and his definition of a hit.