Everyone's favorite Coke Boy shows a desire to evolve on "Jungle Rules."
Listening to French Montana’s sophomore release is a lot like going on a first date with someone you privately stalked on the Internet for months.
You know from his social media profiles, that he has lived lavishly, traveled afar, added a pet monkey to his family and etched his name on every must-not-miss occasion of the celebrity elite's social calendar. Despite being told previously by possibly jealous friends that he might be an "acquired taste," you step into the movie and have one of those ignore-your-phone types of evenings.
That's French Montana's Jungle Rules, in a nutshell.
While his days on street corners hustling his Cocaine City DVD series may now be a fleeting memory, French today is as industry-seasoned as he is street-smart. Enter "Unforgettable," his biggest hit single to date. Such a crossover into the mainstream has long been his trajectory, but with the Swae Lee-assisted summer banger, French etched a newfound sense of urgency into the foundation he spent years building. Not only are people enjoying his latest collection of polished party tracks, but there's now an elevated interest in learning his story.
The album's introductory track, "Whiskey Eyes," evidences this brilliantly. As French offers a rapped version of his complex come-up, he details his own perspectives of success through a jaded lens, further backed by the late Chinx. As the album unfolds, French sprinkles subtle moments of personal revelation into records that soundtrack a proper pre-game and memorable late night alike. At this point in the game, French knows how to craft a hit single and with Jungle Rules, he provides fans with multiple options for their go-to playlists-- perhaps too many options.
It should be noted that French rarely goes for it alone. The album’s first promotional single, “No Pressure,” recruits Future, “Migo Montana,” features Quavo, “Black Out" has Young Thug, and those are but a few of the guest appearances. While these tracks definitely pass the car speaker test, they don’t necessarily have much replay value; after a quick run-through of the album you’ll likely only remember a handful of tracks distinctly. Among them is the album’s center(ish)piece, the horn-driven and old school-flavored "Bring Dem Things," which again contains a feature -- Pharrell -- and is perhaps the most memorable, with the highest replay value. This track may be the smartest move on Jungle Rules. The other highlights tend to feature French embracing and creating alluring narratives, like on standout cut “A Lie,” which doubles as Max B's revival and The Weeknd’s semi-ambiguous response to his longtime rumored beef with Drake, as well as a reference to his ex-girl.
On Jungle Rules, French has fans believing that he strategically dove deeper than the surface and as a result, exceeds arguably temperate expectations. In fact, he's more than comfortable with taking a backseat on certain tracks, if it's the price for a highly-curated possible hit ("Jump," "Bring Dem Things," "A Lie"). It's not like we don't know French as a 'features guy' though-- his past albums littered with them, perhaps more so than Jungle Rules. This is not necessarily a detractor, but it does seem to remain fact that he more often than not needs-- or asks-- for the assistance and guidance of notable collaborator friends when it comes to chasing that perfect-sounding hit.
Jungle Rules, still, feels like a step in the right direction for French, who seems to often sit in a limbo of fully-formed star status and just-about-to-break through that mainstream ceiling. Weaving skillfully between summer-tinged R&B and hip-hop, as well as seasoning the tracks with sounds from his Moroccan roots, Jungle Rules sets the precedent for an ever-evolving French Montana. With the album projected to debut at No. 3 and "Unforgettable," well on its way to surpassing 300M streams, French Montana has every reason to be pleased. If the past fifteen-plus years as any indication, French Montana isn't going anywhere but "All the Way Up."