Memory can sometimes be fickle in the rap game. Your achievements can be hidden behind the shroud of the news cycle, with new artists appearing, and new songs hitting every single day. Often, you’ll find the legacies of certified legends like Tommy Wright III overlooked in the impact that they’ve had on the trajectory of hip-hop’s sound. Heck, even an influential creative like Soulja Boy does full press runs to remind people of his accolades.
This leads us to French Montana: an unsung hero in the history of rap music. With almost two decades of relevance, he’s solidified as an artist that stands the test of time. Club bangers like ‘Pop That’ and ‘Ain’t Worried About Nothin’, as well as memorable features on tracks like ASAP Ferg’s ‘Work (Remix)’, have showcased his knack to create timeless hits. If you take a trip back to 2002, you can enjoy his creation of the Cocaine City DVD series, which features interviews, freestyles, and rap battles that painted the picture of New York’s underground. Then there’s his 2009 breakout mixtape Mac Wit Da Cheese, which highlighted his descriptive lyricism over the unique, boom-bap sounds of producer Harry Fraud. It’s hard to find a year in this current century where French hasn’t been a major player, and now, he looks to continue that legacy with his first album of this decade: THEY GOT AMNESIA.
At first glance, the title may seem rooted in bitterness, but it actually alludes to French’s newfound hunger and determination, as well as how grateful he is to still be doing this. In 2019, French Montana was admitted into the ICU, fighting off nausea and heart issues. In his 2020 XXL cover story, he cited addiction and exhaustion as the cause of this, stating “Percocet starts off as pain relief, and then it ends up being a hobby, and then it ends up being an addiction.” Moving away from these vices, and finding Allah in the process, these adverse times became the catalyst for this album, which now serves as his propeller back into music’s elite, and a reminder that he’s here to stay.
The album starts with a spoken word passage from Diddy on ‘ICU’. It harkens back to French’s time in hospital and leads into the album’s opener ‘How You King?’, where French reminisces on his journey to success. As the project progresses throughout its 21 tracks, it becomes clear that this is French’s most personal album yet. ‘Losing Weight’ finds him delving into his issues with addiction. ‘Appreciate Everything’ expresses his gratitude for the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. ‘Tonight Only’ highlights his struggles with the pressure of stardom, spitting “Cause the mountain top is small, and the air thin, a vistin’ space, not a livin’ space.” While French always could match his lyricism with hard-hitting beats, this is the most vulnerable and open-book we’ve heard him, showcasing his ability to grow even after a long tenure in the game.
Production-wise, THEY GOT AMNESIA is a reminder of French’s versatility. With beatmakers like Boi-1da, Hitmaka, Swizz Beatz, Harry Fraud, and more behind the boards, the result is an album that seamlessly transitions between a smorgasbord of sounds. Luxury-filled soul and boom-bap that enhance French’s soliloquies. There are trap drum patterns and bellowing 808s that are ready to blast in the club. The project even finds French experimenting, as he delves into the sounds of drill, and West-Coast influenced fast-tempo raps. French has always been a chameleon in the sense of adapting to any style of a song he’s featured on, but on THEY GOT AMNESIA, he commands this with comfortable confidence.
Not only does the album signify French’s talents as a lyricist and vocalist, but also as a curator. THEY GOT AMNESIA is full of features, but none of them serves as filler, with French sequencing these appearances in a DJ Khaled-like fashion, and creating the biggest anthems he can. He pairs Doja Cat and Saweetie on ‘Handstand’, allowing the wildcard energy of both artists to bounce off each other. ‘Striptease’ polymerises the contrasting styles of Ty Dolla $ign and Latto, resulting in a high-energy banger that has both soul and attitude. ‘Stuck in The Jungle’ has a determined hook from the late, great Pop Smoke and an ear-catching verse from Lil Durk, weaving a story of the streets told from different, wisdom-rich perspectives. When French isn’t using the album as a device for introspection on the solo tracks, he’s acting as both an artist and an executive producer, calling the best of the best to arms, and arranging tracks that are undoubtedly ember-filled.
In an Instagram post announcing the album, French Montana states “While I was trying to bounce back they counted me out, and forgot everything we did.” THEY GOT AMNESIA, is a strong reminder that he’s a legend, with legs ready to run the game. Adversity has always been a part of French’s life. He and his family immigrated from Morocco when he was 13. In 2003, he was struck in the head by two gunmen, surviving after weeks in the hospital. 2019 saw him suffering from the health issues that inspired this album. Every time French has struggled, he’s returned stronger. And even after several platinum hits and standout verses, he’s still having to fight. THEY GOT AMNESIA, however, is a KO blow, featuring some of his strongest lyrics and verses to date, while solidifying that he’s one of the best curators in hip-hop. Shout out to Roy Jones Jr, because this is French Montana’s ‘Ya’ll Must’ve Forgot’ moment, and it’s safe to say, we’ll never forget again.