French Montana, Jungle Rules | Album Review
French Montana returns after a four-year hiatus with his sophomore album, ‘Jungle Rules.’ The MC and the album have their respective moments.
After a four-year hiatus, French Montana returns. He released his debut album, Excuse My French back in 2013, fueled by anthem, “Pop That.” In 2016, he was scheduled to release MC4, but scrapped it as his sophomore album. He’s finally back with Jungle Rules, an 18-track affair that is all over the place. Clocking in at 64 minutes, Jungle Rules gives the listener lots of French Montana, which is good sometimes but too much at others.
“Whiskey Eyes” initiates Jungle Rules, featuring a verse by the late Chinx. It opens with the sounds of the jungle. It’s fitting given the album title, but ultimately, off-putting, particularly with the mellower chorus that follows. French Montana offers an okay flow, but nothing game changing, particularly distinct, or rousing. “Whiskey Eyes,” hence, is a bit underwhelming as the opening statement by the rapper.
“Unforgettable,” featuring Swae Lee, makes up for it. Swae Lee is the star of the show, clearly outperforming French. The tropical vibe is successful, but perhaps polarizing to an extent. The main rub is that this sound is getting old because it’s been overused. While the ginormous success of “Unforgettable” is surprising, it’s understandable why the record has been successful in itself.
“Trippin” doesn’t sustain the success, unfortunately. A pop-rap, autotune performance from French, this song raises the question, what kind of artists does he want to be? The production is successful, but sort of ‘been there, done that.’ The hook is repetitive, yet, “I ain’t trippin on a b*tch” isn’t the catchiest lyric of the year.
Things get better with “A Lie,” featuring The Weeknd and Max B. The Weeknd plays true to his style, tackling the pop-rap infused melodic line like a champ. He ends up singing the first verse and the chorus. French Montana adds some contributions to the chorus, rapping the full second verse. His flow is sort of predictable – more of the same – but he has his moments. Max B finishes the meat of the song with the third and final verse. The production is good, not “the second coming.”
“Jump” brings the ever-unique Travis Scott aboard. The production has a foreboding quality and as usual, the sound favors Scott. Here, French offers an okay, but not incredibly memorable verse. The same could be said of Scott on the second verse. Follow up “Hotel Bathroom” is shallow and ill-conceived. The hook says it all:
“Hotel bathroom / Hotel bathroom / Smoking in the bathroom / To the hotel room / Hotel couch, f*cking on the hotel couch / Hotel bathroom / F*ck you on the hotel bath tub.”
The thing is, the production, sound, and overall vibe almost save it. Still, how lame does “Hotel Bathroom” make sex sound? Very lame.
“Bring Dem Things”
After the unremarkable “Hotel Bathroom,” the record to beat arrives on Jungle Rules. “Bring Dem Things” is excellent from start to finish. It features strong production work that’s fueled by a loop and superb drum programming. “Bring Dem Things” samples both Charles Mingus and Paul Simon – awesomeness. Kid Daytona delivers a fantastic hook. Pharrell offers the best rap verse of the track, going hard “for the first time in forever.” He outshines French Montana, but French holds his own on one of his best verses of the album.
After “Bring Dem Things,” the momentum slides. “Bag” featuring Ziico Niico isn’t memorable. The hardcore production is a pro, but the song itself lacks profundity. “Migo Montana” may be cleverly titled, but calling Quavo and French Montana a formidable team would be an overstatement. Neither off anything that’s particularly notable.
“No Pressure” represents one of the better moments of the album. The production work is superb, with a hard, malicious quality. French Montana takes a more dominant, assertive role here, which is a pro. Future, who raps the second verse, sounds respectable – don’t call it a tour de force though. “Push Up” gives French a good, not great solo track. It’s devoid of substance, but there’s something here worth noting.
“Stop It” brings T.I. along for a very gimmicky ride. The hook is quite repetitive. French raps about lean, money, dope, material things, and sex. As for T.I., his flow is amazing, but there’s a lot crammed into his verse. The repetitive bridge is overkill, however:
“Tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tippy top / Models got the bottles / Tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tip, tippy top / Bad b*tches, mob the floors…”
Give “Stop It” some credit though – if nothing more, it’s fun.
Bizarre might be the best way to describe “Black Out.” The production is a pro – quite malicious sounding. The one-of-a-kind Young Thug delivers the hook, which Is a trip. While French Montana leads the charge on the verses, he is assisted by Young Thug, which is an intriguing experience. “Black Out” is a standout, perhaps mostly because it’s so unique.
“She Workin” is another unique joint. The sound captures drunkenness and sex. Marc E Bassy handles the hook, doing a fantastic job. French has his moments here, fitting into the overall vibe. The oddest thing about this song is the form – there’s an element of unpredictability given the order of the sections. In that sense, this is a more forward-thinking record.
“Formula,” featuring Alkaline, has its pros, but the tropical, dancehall sound is quite pronounced. If you love that sound, particularly integrated with hip-hop, this will be a standout. Regardless of preference, it’s bombastic and energetic. “Famous” makes a dramatic shift, finding French Montana singing. This is his Drake moment, though Drake does it better. Closing joints “Too Much” and “White Dress” returns to a more assertive, edgier sound. The problem is, at this point, Jungle Rules has run its course by this point.
All said and done, Jungle Rules has its moments. Yes, the phrase has been used a couple of times to describe French Montana, but it perfectly captures this album as a whole. This is not a great album, but there are enough enjoyable moments and vibes. French Montana still needs to develop an identity as an artist. He assimilates well, but the question still remains, who is the real French Montana?
Gems: “Unforgettable,” “A Lie,” “Bring Dem Things,” “No Pressure” & “Black Out”