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French Montana Drops New Album, “Mac & Cheese 5”

French Montana, the Moroccan-born and Bronx-based rapper, has seen a lot and done a lot. At the same time, a lot of criticism is sent his way for how that success was achieved. With Mac & Cheese 5, French Montana relies greatly on the formula he built his legacy off of, yet still stumbles over the trappings of that recipe.

First, the Streaming Platform Antics

It wouldn’t be telling the whole story if our discussion of Mac & Cheese 5 didn’t start with the patently insane way French Montana has presented it to fans. The album, which already spans a pretty lengthy 21 tracks and 60+ minutes, currently sits on streaming platforms in five different album packages—standard, slowed, sped up, acapella, instrumental and a “comprehensive” combination of the previous four.

Further, each of the albums’ songs are their own singles in that category of his artist page. In and of itself, it’s hilarious to look at, but it presents insane peripheral pieces like an instrumental of a skit with Italiano TikTokers whose end result is 90 seconds of train noises. Perhaps we should take this as an end result of the gamification of streaming platforms seen in smaller doses over the past several years. Safe to say, though, no one has done it to this extent, taking a shotgun blast approach with 21 separate songs and cynically figuring “eh, I’m sure the kids will cling onto one of these.”

French Montana vs. “The Haters” on Mac & Cheese 5

Regardless of its strange distribution, Mac & Cheese 5 tackles a frequent potshot at French Montana as early as possible. In the opener, “Dirty Bronx Intro,” the Bronx rapper goes back and forth in Nicki Minaj style with “the haters,” played by himself in formant-shifted fashion. “Yeah, you sold a hundred million, but they all features / Never that, most of my plaques, I’m the feature.” Or, “Chinx is way better than you / Yeah, he was better than me, he was my prodigy / Dawg, he was supposed to be.” As good as it may sound, sometimes you can’t “block out the noise,” and the success-based rebuttals that Montana sets up here are hard to argue with.

Some Stellar Guest Contributions

“Okay,” where ATL Jacob provides production and Lil Baby appears for a guest verse, speaks to how French Montana got those plaques in the first place. An exotically flavored, 808-heavy beat sets up undeniable energy, and the ATL rapper absolutely slides. French Montana deserves at least some credit for his ability to get the best out of his collaborators. There are plenty of rap albums out each year with stacked casts, and plenty where you can easily tell that cast phoned it in.

Similarly, in his section, French Montana shows serious growth on the mic, kicking things off with a trip into the multisyllabic. His stanza begins as he rhymes, “took over the street with no sponsor man / checkin’ the jet for the contraband / don’t get hit with that draco / Soulja Boy or the Aubrey Graham.” The lyrics and scheme may not win a Pulitzer Prize, yet compared with his “she got a hard head but her a** soft” era, why not give credit where credit is due?

Arguably the most anticipated and covered song on the tracklist, “Where They At,” builds its foundation on boom-bap production, and the off-kilter energy of both Westside Gunn and Kanye West proves to be a surprisingly smooth combination. “Splash Brothers” reunites three 2010s veterans by enlisting Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, and the results revive the success they all achieved in that era.

A photo of Bronx rapper French Montana, hot off the heels of his 'Mac & Cheese 5.' Taken from @frenchmontana on Instagram.
A photo of Bronx rapper French Montana, hot off the heels of his ‘Mac & Cheese 5.’ Taken from @frenchmontana on Instagram.

An Embrace of the Current NYC Wave

Circling back, the combination of the heavy feature list and the aforementioned streaming platforms blitz makes it an easy accusation to call Mac & Cheese 5 a blatant attempt at wave riding. However, French Montana’s backlog does a lot in terms of establishing precedence. How can you call the tropical “Goals” with Jeremih wave riding when he made “Unforgettable?” How can you call the gym anthem “Praise God” alongside JID that when “Stay Schemin'” exists?

Even in moments where French Montana tackles territory he hasn’t before on Coke Boys 5, he does an admirable job of lifting up originators or current torch-bearers. Take “Too Fun,” a fusion between Jersey Club and Bronx drill, where he largely takes a backseat to other rappers in a true posse cut arrangement—41’s Kyle Richh and Jenn Carter.

The Final Verdict on French Montana & Mac & Cheese 5

To be clear—French Montana didn’t do himself any favors in the leadup for Mac & Cheese 5. Be it in the heavy promotion of the features or the still-unhinged way it hit DSPs, audiences met a lot of reasons to discount his latest album before even pressing play. But if you wade through those initial hurdles, there’s a pretty enjoyable listen on the other side.

You can find Mac & Cheese 5 and all French Montana releases on streaming platforms everywhere.

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