Review – French Montana 'They Got Amnesia' Is A Reminder Of His Strengths And Shortcomings

Review – French Montana 'They Got Amnesia' Is A Reminder Of His Strengths And Shortcomings

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French Montana’s fourth studio album, They Got Amnesia, was largely recorded in a $650,000 recording studio at his $5 million estate, according to Season 4 of Selling Sunset. Montana bought the home in 2016 for $3.3 million from Selena Gomez before adding the studio, and the five-bed, six-bath Mediterranean house feels like a succinct metaphor for his career: stand next to someone famous, add onto what they’ve already done and spend a bit of money. Perhaps a lot of money will turn into a little bit more money.

Lacking a bonafide radio smash in the vein of “Unforgettable” or “Lock Jaw,” They Got Amnesia is unlikely to remind anyone French Montana was once a 2010s rap titan alongside A$AP Rocky and Rich Homie Quan. Still, there are enough flashes of brilliance here to make listening to the slightly-better-than-average record quite frustrating.

In theory, French Montana has all the tools he needs to make a really good album. In practice, it seems unlikely he ever will.

Montana’s best asset remains his ability to get talented people in a room to make good, occasionally great music. Critics will point out his biggest hits have benefited from extra star power, whether with Drake or Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. But hot features alone don’t make hot songs: just ask DJ Khaled, whose guestlist bonanzas have largely fallen out of favor over the second half of the 2010s.

What makes They Got Amnesia particularly successful is French Montana’s range, from maximalist luxury rap to bouncing strip club anthems and back again. He constantly adapts to his guests, and the results are Rick Ross, Doja Cat and Lil Tjay all sounding perfectly at home on the same album as the album architect breezily switches gears from muttered street talk with Kodak Black to ratchet anthems with Saweetie.

Not every collaboration pays off though. “Cold” with Tory Lanez sounds good for 45 seconds until Tory squeals “fuck me like you love me” loud enough to pierce the listener’s eardrums. Elsewhere, Fabolous and John Legend sound exactly as bad and melodramatic as they did in 2011.

Amnesia works best when French makes an effort to keep up with his younger peers. 42 Dugg and Coi Leray shine on “Push Start,” which sounds like Sage the Gemini’s “Gas Pedal” with thizz face. “Handstand” with Doja and Saweetie is a ready-made club jam for the ladies that seems destined for TikTok success, and French is smart enough to get out of Latto’s way to allow her to carry the far-too-brief “Striptease.”

As with any French Montana album, the solo tracks make for a mixed bag, and here he does his best work diving into Coke Boys revivalism in the album’s back half. Highlights such as “The Paper” and “Tonight Only” have a lived-in familiarity, like seeing a good friend for the first time in years. French Montana sounds supremely comfortable reliving the early days of maximalist trap, sneering “see me out in public I look like a sheikh” on “Business.”

But the album gets off to a flat-footed start. “How You King?” is a little too self-serious to actually enjoy, though it is a treat to hear French Montana compare the blue of water in the Maldives to Hypnotiq. “I Don’t Really Care” is egregiously overenunciated, as if to convince the listener he has anything of value to say.

Meanwhile, “FWMGAB” was designed for psychological club warfare, namely, convincing drunk people they’re about to hear Shakira before playing French Montana. It’s the latest in a long line of cheat-code samples this year, and the inclusion of its MoneyBagg Yo remix only reemphasizes how boring the track is.

The record is notionally structured around an autumn 2020 health scare, a six day stint in the ICU that prompted the rapper to get sober. But a brief intro and late album interlude doesn’t make a concept album, and despite French Montana’s assertion he sees himself in “Phase 2” of his career, not much has changed from 2019’s MONTANA or 2017’s Jungle Rules. Like his previous albums, They Got Amnesia is a simple collection of songs with slightly more consistent performance and significantly lower peaks.

One day, Diddy will stop writing checks, Drake will stop doing guest verses and Interscope will stop buying 3D billboards to promote the latest album. But that day isn’t today. It’s also possible his music will get better, either because he improves as an artist or just because he got a few talented friends in a room to make the next decade’s “Pop That.” It might not be the likeliest outcome, but French Montana has beat the odds before.

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