Friday, May 24, 2013

Album Review: 'Excuse My French' (Grade: B)

After a ten year underground campaign which included the popular "Cocaine City" DVD series and years alongside the now incarcerated Max B, French Montana, the seasoned shining jewel for Diddy's resurgent Bad Boy label releases his first studio album 'Excuse My French'. Hip-hop fans have enjoyed the Bronx-bred MC's ability to phrase catchy hooks and melodies, entice with witty ad-libs ("Haaaaaaaan"), and flood airwaves with unavoidable anthems and club bangers. What makes EMF more effective than your average street album is the deliberate dominance of it's mold and a worthy approach that earns Montana the subtlest credibility outside of the one-dimensional frame. 

As EMF's first released single, "Pop That" embodied the overall spirit of the project in commanding fashion. With help from Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil' Wayne, the Uncle Luke sampled craze became a summer anthem almost a full year before the album's release  (although EMF was originally set to drop July 17 of last year). Several months later came "Marble Floors", another power house cast of Rick Ross, Lil' Wayne, 2 Chainz, and a boastfully yet typically ignorant concept with roaring hi-hats from producer Mike Will. French promised another bombshell this past February with "Freaks" featuring Nicki Minaj, delivering with the accredited Lil' Vicious/Doug E. Fresh sample that blends fittingly with Minaj's West Indian flavor and Montana's targeted club sound. Last month we learned the rapper "Ain't Worried About Nuthin" for his first career solo single and addicting ratchet sing-a-long. 

What's left for the remainder of 'EMF' are mostly extensions of the high-octane, street-friendly charisma of it's prior singles. "Once in A While" begins the album with French blaring, "cold blooded murder", and paying homage to the incarcerated Max B amidst an emotive Three Dog Night sample. We segue into "Trap House" featuring Rick Ross and Birdman, returning to the demonstrative energy of French's slick braggadocio, "30 on my wrist, had to roll my sleeve up". Montana hits the stove on "When I Want" with emphatic production and bars about the rapper's careless proclivity for drug possession and fast women. While "Paranoid" and "Throw It In The Bag" bring lively production additions, the former produced by Young Chop, they take 'EMF' on a generic turn which is too easily skipped over.

Rounding out 'EMF' in what this reviewer feels is the most impressive facet to Montana's repertoire are the songs that both emphasize his talents and place him in brief contexts that effectively stray from his conventional tone. "Gifted" perhaps best personifies the characteristic, although it's clout is mostly attributed to The Weeknd, who's enchanting influence encapsulates the song for good reason. Still, French's swift presence is appreciated and not overdone. Another softer tone for "Drink Freely" featuring Rico Love helps French channel more sensual vibes. "We Go Wherever We Want" is the most pure rap setting, a sample of Raekwon and Ghostface Killa's 1995 "Ice Cream" record. Montana's flow is thorough over the vintage sequence, speaking of his chains, chinchillas, and purchasing car dealerships.

'EMF' productively succeeds at achieving exactly what it's supposed to, and not too much else. The messages are more recurring than diversified, but from a content standpoint, this rap album wasn't constructed to cognitively educate. Montana is still generally an acquired taste, making it difficult for some listeners to endure, "Got two bad b*tches with me, Molly and Aquafina". Even so, it can't be said that French Montana's approach is strictly narrow. The humble cadences and witty melodies give the Moroccan born MC a somewhat graceful touch of adaptability. Although his prediction that 'Excuse My French' would be "the album of the decade" was comedically false, this debut album certainly met it's high expectations, but did not exceed them.

- M. Soaries

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