Doing BIG Things!

with French Montana / @frenchmontana

MUSE French Montana / @frenchmontana & Galilea Montijo / @galileamontijo 

PRODUCTION/PR Burgerrock Media / @burgerrockmedia & Irma Peñuñuri / @burgerrock 

PHOTOGRAPHER Yasmine Kateb / @yasminekateb

STYLIST Hannah Kerri / @hannahkerrri

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Baldo Mendoza / @itsbaldooo, Marianela Valderrama / @cafe.conflores & Karla Gonzalez / @karlitaa21

STYLIST ASSISTANT Kayla Kohanteb / @kaylakohanteb

JEWELER Erin Barnett / @by.barnett 

HAIR Bernardo Moreno / @bernardojavier6

GLAM Alfonso Waithsman / @waithsman

INTERVIEW Romina Olivia / @rominaolivia_

French Montana is the ultimate Playboy whose musical journey often explores themes of wealth, luxury, and success. He is known for his catchy hooks and collaborations which have led him to work with some of the hottest names in the industry such as Drake, Cardi B, Post Malone, and many more.

The Moroccan-American rapper, singer, and songwriter was born Karim Kharbouch in 1984 in Morocco and immigrated to the United States with his family as a child. He grew up in the Bronx, New York, and began his music career in the early 2000s, releasing his debut mixtape “French Revolution Vol. 1” in 2007. He gained mainstream recognition in 2012 with his hit single “Pop That,” featuring Rick Ross, Drake, and Lil Wayne. French Montana is a world-class artist in the music industry and continues to release new music and collaborations with more to come this year.

Intimissi Slip / @intimissiofficial
Dandy Del Mar Robe
Dandy Del Mar pants
Dandy Del Mar shoe

Can you tell us about your childhood growing up in Morocco and how it has shaped you and your music? While growing up in Morocco, I listened to all types of Moroccan or African music. My family was there, I played a lot of soccer, and used to listen to a lot of worldwide music which all made me who I am today, by listening to a lot of legends. 

How was your experience immigrating to the United States at thirteen years old, and what were some of the most impactful moments for you moving to a new country and having to learn a new language? It was a culture shock. It was more me adapting to the lifestyle and just seeing people as a whole, how to talk with their hands, and how they move. I was really amazed by it, and trying to learn English took me a couple of years. It was hard because you couldn’t understand what people were saying. You really want to speak to people, and getting pulled away from your family and all your friends at that age, and getting put in New York City and abroad at thirteen years old, making new friends and meeting new people, it was a shock. But we got through it.

Your career in music started in your teens as a battle rapper who went by the name Young French. Can you tell us a little about the best and worst performances you had as a young rapper, and any advice you would give to other young emerging artists? The worst experience is when I lost to Short, I had to go get it together and then come back and win. But I think that coming from the Bronx, that’s what makes you relentless. You’ve got to come right back and not think too much about your losses. And really, that’s how people make it out of the jungle, by really adapting. And we spend a lot of money to battle people. And we battled people. And sometimes we lose money. And you never want to lose another dollar again cause you were hustling. So it was a great experience. It definitely was the mecca of hip-hop. That’s the reason why it was so hard for us to make it. Because the people that actually created hip-hop years ago, they all came from the Bronx. It was basically like playing basketball for the Chicago Bulls during ‘96 when Michael Jordan was at his prime. That’s how the Bronx felt. And the advice I’d give young artists is never give up. Never give up on your dreams. It never comes the way that it’s set up in your mind. It never comes in the shape, way, or form that you dream about it. Sometimes it comes in different directions that come from the side doors you never expected. But just because you don’t see the way you picture it, don’t stop.

Menace jacket / @menacelosangeles
Dandy Del Mar top / @dandydelmar
C’est Bon Pants / @cestbon
By Barnett Jewelry / @by.barnett
Ema Sevahl Couture / @emasevahl

How does it feel to be a Playboy cover star? And what’s the best pickup line you’ve ever used or had used on yourself? I feel like I’ve been a playboy my whole life. One of the biggest playboys that ever came out of Morocco. The pickup line? There’s no pickup lines out there. 

For this Playboy cover, you got to work with Mexican actress and superstar Galilea Montijo. What was it like shooting this editorial feature with Galilea? I love her energy. She’s sexy. As soon as I came in, she was smoking a cigarette like Madonna back in the day. I just love that she’s from Mexico and I’m from Morocco. We both kind of have the same type of morals, and I love to see somebody that just loves being in Playboy as much as I do.

You have come a long way since slinging the “Cocaine City” DVDs. In one of your early videos, you mention, “You’ve got to learn how to live like animals; you’ve got to hibernate. You’re going up against people who don’t believe in nothing…When it’s time to work it’s time to work.” What motivated you to keep working and pushing past the obstacles in this industry, and how do you find balance between your work and personal life? What pushed me is there was nothing to fall back on. There was no plan B. Because if we go back to the streets, it is worse than anything we tried to do. So I think that having dreams and having to learn to execute on nothing, dreams don’t work unless you work. And that’s kind of been the mentality for us. Once you start seeing results, no matter how small they are, just like when you make your first dollar making music, and you’ve been making music for the past 10 years, you just feel happy you succeeded. It doesn’t really matter if you make one dollar or make a million for the first check, but just to see something, come from your heart, sweat, blood, and tears, you appreciate it more because it’s our passion. When you love something, you can keep doing it forever. That’s been the push for me. Honestly, there was no balance. There’s no balance until your check comes in for something that you’re trying to reach. Sometimes, you have twenty to twenty-five-hour days, and at the end of the day, you still can’t get any rest because you haven’t accomplished your goal. Your mind is always racing. And I feel like, if it was easy, anybody could do it. And coming from Africa, I had to do a lot of catching up. Because these artists that I’m going up against have been singing since they came out of their mother’s womb. Some of these artists were in bands when they were five years old, before I was even speaking English at 15 years old. So I had to do a lot of catching up. Nobody had ever come from Morocco either, so I had to represent the people of Morocco the right way. There’s really no balance when you try to accomplish things that have never been accomplished before. With the family balance, you’ve just got to get it when you can get it.

Mother Of All Bodysuit / @motherofall_official

Is there a specific quote or moment from one of the “Cocaine City” videos that has stuck with you? That you can’t cheat the hospital because the hospital always knows how you’re doing. You will always cheat your way through school, cheat your way through whatever it is because you think that the solution is having high grades, but when it comes to the hustle, it’s different. If you cheat the hustle, the hustle will cheat you back. So you’ve got to be careful. The mentality to have fun in school is not the same mentality for the streets. If you don’t go out there and grind, the grind isn’t going to pay you. So that’s something that stuck with me.

Who have been your key influences and musical inspirations over the years? I would say my musical influences are Tupac, Puff, Jay-Z, and Rick Ross.

You’ve been in the game for over a decade now with collaborations with some of the hottest names. What’s the hottest beat you’ve laid a verse on in your opinion, and can you rate your top three favorite tracks from your entire discography and tell us why? The hottest beat would be “No Stylist.” I would say my number one track is “Unforgettable” because of the ‘unforgettable’ moment of being able to help open up a hospital to provide healthcare access across 56 villages in Uganda. It helped give kids from Uganda visas to come to the States and follow their dreams, and it was my first diamond record. I will say “Shot Caller” would be second because “Shot Caller” was when everybody was against me. That was the record that I used to break through. Number three would be “No Stylist.”

What is the creative process like for you in and out of the studio when you’re working on new music? It’s all about the sound; it is all about the production. It’s all about that feeling you get when you hear a new sound and you hear a beat that you love. It’s that uncontrollable motivation you get when you hear something that just sounds like a breath. I think that that usually sets the mood and after that, it’s just about how you attack it. It is about you just making such a great song that you can’t stop listening to it.

Paisley & Gray Jacket / @paisleyandgray
Braydon Alexander Shirt / @braydonalexander_
Paisley & Gray Pants
Zegna Shoes / @zegna
Mother of All Bodysuit

Do the beats come before the lyrics for you? Sometimes you will have an idea in your head and a beat will come in, and you go crazy. And sometimes it’s the opposite. It all depends. We have done it all different ways.

Being the number one streaming African artist in history and filming “Unforgettable” in Uganda, to building the Suubi hospital, to being the first-ever rapper to be bestowed the honor of Global Citizen Ambassador for your charity work in Uganda, can you share with us what makes it such a special place for you? I healed when I went there. It’s just beautiful people there. I think the energy of the world is there. It’s like this real energy, real spiritual energy that can help anybody heal when they go there; it’s like Wakanda. From the people, to the vibe, to the inspiration, I appreciated seeing people that are just so happy with life and whatever life gives them.

Lastly, you’re currently working on your new music video which fans are anxiously awaiting. What message do you hope to convey through your music and what do you want your fans to take away from your work? I want them to take away that I’m finally doing the music that I love. I feel like as an artist you go through different sounds and different experiences and different things while you are making music, but you will also have your core sound and the sound that broke you into the game. As you get bigger, you want to get the diamond plaques, you want to get the billboards; you want everything. And now that I have three platinum albums, diamond plaques and probably over 100 million singles, I want to go back to what made me French Montana from the Bronx. I want to get back to my roots.

Any last words for our readers? Coke Boys 6 is out now. Big things to come this year!

Unknown Tracksuit / @unknownuk
Louis Vuitton Sneakers / @louisvuitton
Stello Dress / @stello

Want to see more of French Montana? Then follow his journey on Instagram @frenchmontana for all his latest news and story updates!