First and foremost, props to the good people at The Smoking Section, who took the time to do what I wasn't willing to - listen to a 22 minute French Montana interview. I've grown to respect French's intelligence over the years, you won't ever catch me casually dismissing Montana's place in hip-hop, he's earned it, I just can't agree with the nugget TSS unearthed from his new Breakfast Club interview.
Charlamanage: "Why do you think Kendrick sells more than street rappers?
French Montana: "Because they position him like how they did on the GRAMMYs. As the new music, when I don't feel like that's....it's not that it's not the right thing to do...but the whole thing was Kendrick night."
The point he's trying to make is a little meandering, he's clearly watching his words carefully, trying to make sure he doesn't cause any friction with TDE. But if I understand French right, he believes that they - "they" being the nebulous mainstream music industry - are actively promoting Kendrick Lamar and TPAB in an effort to steer people away from "street rap."
Where do I even start?
First, I was actually at the GRAMMYs this year, and while I agree with French that there was a conspiracy in place around Kendrick, I believe it's the opposite conspiracy. For the past few years the GRAMMYs has looked especially out of touch, especially with younger audiences, by handing over awards to Macklemore and essentially ignoring the Black Lives Matter movement. Giving Kendrick a ton of nominations and a performance slot was an effort to gain back some respectability there, but limiting all of his wins to rap-only categories was also a clear message about what they think Kendrick's place in music is.
Second, street rap isn't popular? If by "street rap" he literally means New York City rap about crime he's right, that music's not currently selling on a mainstream level, but it's a ridiculous stretch to blame Kendrick Lamar for that. The 50 Cent era may be over, but let's also not pretend like Fiddy was some purely raw street rapper who didn't "go shorty, it's your birthday" his way into the mainstream.
Third, "Street" rap from other places in the country, like Atlanta and L.A., is selling just fine, and I'm not just talking about Future. French's Excuse My French album may have only sold 98,000 copies compared to ScHoolboy Q's 200,000 for Oxymoron, but I don't think even he has the cojones to tell Groovy Q that he's not street.
And last but not least, Kendrick's not "street"? He may be the good kid and not the shooter, and TPAB might not be filled with bullet holes, but it's still an album straight outta Compton featuring Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. I might buy that the mainstream music industry is only too happy to swing the spotlight over to Drake (aka Mr. Super Bowl ad), but not a guy who calls himself King Kunta and made the cover of his album all the homies standing on the White House lawn.
In conclusion, French Montana raises an interesting point, but he's just wrong. Thank you for your time. Good night.