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A rapper who built an indie empire with his Cocaine City imprint, French Montana was born in Morocco, but emigrated to the U.S. while in his teens. He set up shop in the Bronx and began releasing his Cocaine City series of DVDs in 2002, mixing interviews with established hip-hop artists and unsigned talent. Around 2009, he began releasing his own mixtape CDs with DJs like DJ Drama, Evil Empire, and Big Mike as his hosts. That same year he would be signed to Akon's Konvict Musik label, but in late 2011 it was announced that the two parties had parted ways and that French was signing to both P. Diddy's Bad Boy and Rick Ross' Maybach Music imprints in a unique joint venture. His 2012 single "Pop That" would be the first release for the united labels, while 2013 saw the release of his debut album, Excuse My French.
Karim Kharbouch (born November 9, 1984), known by his stage name French Montana, is an American rapper born in Morocco. He is the founder and CEO of Cocaine City Records. In 2012, he signed a joint venture recording deal with Bad Boy Records and Maybach Music Group. Montana is known for his frequent collaborations with producer Harry Fraud and with rapper Max B before his conviction. More recently he is known for his collaborations with Rick Ross and MMG and Bad Boy label-mates along with his group Coke Boys which includes rappers Chinx, Lil Durk and Charlie Rock. His debut album Excuse My French was released on May 21, 2013.MidEast Dynasty (December 7, 2011). "French Montana is a "Shot Caller"". Mideastdynasty.com. Retrieved January 7, 2013. Cite error: The named reference Hlfm was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Letter, The (May 31, 2011). "French Montana recruits Jadakiss for a "New York Minute"". Mideastdynasty.com. Retrieved January 22, 2013. Cite error: The named reference allhiphop was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "French Montana Reveals Nationality & Speaks On Bad Boy". Retrieved March 7, 2013. "French Montana's "Excuse My French" Pushed Back Again". Hotnewhiphop.com. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
French Montana was born Karim Kharbouch in 1984 in Rabat, Morocco, and was brought up at a family estate outside Casablanca where he lived for the first 13 years of his life. His parents are both Moroccan, though he has some Somali ancestry on his mother's side as well. Growing up, he was consumed with playing football and rapping, describing them as his two favorite childhood hobbies.
In 1996, at the age of 13, Kharbouch left Morocco with his mother, father Abdela and younger brother Zack for South Bronx in New York City. He learned English in the streets and in the Bronx high schools of Lehman and Roosevelt. His father returned to Casablanca after two years. His youngest brother, Ayoub, was born in America, after their father had departed. His mother was on welfare. The family income came from Karim."Hollywood Life - French Montana". Hollywood Life. Retrieved March 10, 2013. "French Montana: Homecoming". The Fader. September 25, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2014. "French Montana telephone interview". Nomad Radio. December 20, 2009. Retrieved March 8, 2013. "Stupid Dope interview with French Montana". Stupiddope.com. January 27, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. Mendez, Marisa (August 11, 2009). "French Montana: Akon's Bullet". Retrieved April 23, 2010.
2002–2011: Cocaine City Records
In 2002, along with his friend, Cokeboy Los, French created a series of street-flavored mix tapes called 'Cocaine City' after drawing inspiration from the 'Smack' DVD series. Under the name Young French he used the DVDs as a means of showcasing his talent as an underground artist. To gain a broader fan base, French incorporated interviews with major artists, as well as some up and comers. The first edition in the series included Pee Wee Kirkland and Remy Ma alongside French himself among others. What started out as simply a medium for developing an audience quickly grew into one of the top-selling "street DVDs". The series ran for 8 years between 2002 and 2010, with a total of 14 editions being released.
In 2009, French signed a deal with Akon's Konvict Muzik record label. He later left the company two years later in 2011 due to album delays. Montana was subsequently reportedly close to signing a deal with Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group (MMG). There were also reports that he would join Kanye West's GOOD Music label.
2011–present: Signing to Bad Boy and Excuse My FrenchMain article: Excuse My French (album)
In December 2011, French signed a record deal with P. Diddy's Bad Boy Records, as well as Interscope Records. According to French, of the many major labels that were courting him, Maybach Music Group would have been his second choice had he not signed with Bad Boy. However, on January 2, 2012 while in the studio with Rick Ross, French announced that he had signed a joint venture deal with Bad Boy Records and Maybach Music Group. Ross and Diddy are set to executive produce his debut album.
French was featured on XXL's Freshman Class of 2012 alongside Future, Kid Ink, Danny Brown, Macklemore, Don Trip, Hopsin, Iggy Azalea, Roscoe Dash and Bad Boy label mate MGK. However, he later revealed to Sway Calloway on RapFix Live that he almost turned down the cover opportunity, feeling he "deserved it two years ago" and that he had surpassed the current crop of rap rookies.
In October 2012, it was announced that French's debut album Excuse My French would be released on May 21, 2013. His mixtape Mac & Cheese 3 was released shortly afterwards, on November 19, 2012. French also announced plans to release a mixtape titled Medusa with fellow rapper Future in November 2012. The second single from Excuse My French was, "Freaks" featuring Nicki Minaj. He was featured in Issue #82 of The FADER and appeared on the cover. The third single would be "Ain't Worried About Nothin'". Upon its release, Excuse My French was met with mixed reviews from music critics. It fared better commercially, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 56,000 copies in the United States.
On August 12, 2013, French announced that his group/record label Coke Boys, that includes rappers Chinx Drugz, Flip, Cheeze and Lil Durk are currently working on collaboration studio album. The group released a mixtape, Coke Boys 4, in January 2014. Following its release, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Montana revealed that Mac & Cheese 4 would be his second studio album rather than a mixtape.Mendez, Marisa (April 7, 2009). "Reviews: Top 5 Dead or Alive: French Montana". Retrieved April 23, 2010. Cite error: The named reference allhiphop.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "French Montana Wasn't Gonna Do' XXL Freshman Cover". Mtv.com. March 8, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. Higgins, Keenan (January 2, 2012). "Who Is French Montana?". Retrieved March 26, 2012. "20 Rappers Who Almost Signed To Other Labels". Complex. French Montana to Maybach Music? Harling, Danielle (October 21, 2011). "Pusha T Talks G.O.O.D. Music Compilation, French Montana Possibly Signing To G.O.O.D. Music | Get The Latest Hip Hop News, Rap News & Hip Hop Album Sales". HipHop DX. Retrieved January 7, 2013. "French Montana Officially Announces Record Deal with Diddy's Bad Boy Label". Thisbeatgoes.com. January 27, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. Interscope - French Montana "Hip-Hop Rumors: French Montana Signed Joint Deal With Bad Boy AND MMG!!??". AllHipHop.com. January 4, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. "French Montana and Rick Ross Celebrate With Champagne From 1996". Vibe.com. January 4, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. "XXL Freshman Class of 2012". Xxlmag.com. January 3, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013. "XXL Freshman Class Includes French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly". Mtv.com. February 29, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013. Sydney Lace (March 9, 2012). "French Montana Almost Rejected the XXL Freshmen Cover!". Allhiphop.com. Retrieved January 7, 2013. "Mixtape Release Dates: Curren$y, French Montana, Fabolous, Los". Retrieved October 29, 2012. "French Montana Calls 50 Cent A 'Donkey,' Announces New Tape With Future". Retrieved November 26, 2012. "Check Out the Artwork for French Montana's Next Single "Freaks" Featuring Nicki Minaj". Complex. January 24, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2013. "French Montana: Homecoming". "Excuse My French Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 2, 2013. "Hip Hop Album Sales: The Week Ending 5/26/2013". HipHopDX. Retrieved May 29, 2013. Yohance Kyles (@HUEYmixwitRILEY) (August 12, 2013). "French Montana Says Coke Boys Crew Working On Studio Album". AllHipHop.com. Retrieved September 2, 2013. "French Montana Sticks To His Comfort Zone On 'Coke Boys 4' Mixtape - XXL". Xxlmag.com. December 9, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2014. Dowling, Marcus K. (January 4, 2014). "French Montana - Coke Boys 4 (Mixtape) | Read Hip Hop Reviews, Rap Reviews & Hip Hop Album Reviews". HipHop DX. Retrieved January 9, 2014. By Sowmya Krishnamurthy. "French Montana Working With Kanye, Macklemore and Rick Ross | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
French Montana speaks several languages including English, Arabic and French. He describes himself as passionate about fashion, purchasing designer wear from Versace, Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton. He cites being a father as one of his driving inspirations.
Between 2003 and 2004, French was shot in the head as he was exiting a recording studio in New York. He was taken to the hospital after the incident and survived.
In 2007, Montana married Deen Kharbouch. They have one son, Kruz who was born in 2009. The couple later separated in 2012. During 2013 it was reported that Montana was in an on-again, off-again relationship with American rapper Trina, who signed to his Coke Boys record label. At one point Montana and Trina lived together at his New Jersey residence. However, Montana moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to work on his second studio album, after which his relationship with Trina ended. French Montana is reportedly dating Khloe Kardashian.Peña, Loris (August 28, 2012). "Monsieur Montana". STATUS Magazine. Retrieved March 10, 2013. "French Montana Talks Record Deal, Ross & Akon". Slumz.boxden.com. Retrieved September 2, 2013. Cite error: The named reference Hlfm was invoked but never defined (see the help page). India, Lindsey (August 10, 2013). "Cassie & Diddy Vacation With French Montana & Trina (PHOTOS)". Global Grind. Retrieved September 2, 2013. Abravanel, Lesley. "French Montana, Trina spotted at Hennessy event - People". MiamiHerald.com. Retrieved January 9, 2014. "Kim Kardashian Is Upset About Her Sister Dating French Montana". Xxlmag.com. April 22, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2014. "Trina And French Montana Are Done - XXL". Xxlmag.com. April 14, 2014. Retrieved June 8, 2014. Khoshaba, Christy. "French Montana calls Khloe Kardashian his 'baby forever'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
According to French, the rappers Tupac Shakur, Nas, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G, 50 Cent, and the Wu-Tang Clan were among the hip hop artists that he listened to while growing up. He also considers himself a general music lover, and is an admirer of the work of English R&B singers Amy Winehouse and Adele.Cite error: The named reference Smmm was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Shull, Zac (February 6, 2012). "French Montana: Talks Indie Grind, Diddy's Business Sense & Max B". Ballerstatus.com. Retrieved January 7, 2013.