Karim Kharbough, better known as French Montana in the hip hop industry, is an extremely accomplished Moroccan rapper, CEO of Cocaine Records, and an esteemed member of Maybach Music group. Born in Morocco, at the age of 13, Karim and his family moved to the South Bronx in New York City in search of better opportunities. Upon his arrival in America, Karim faced adversity because of the English language barrier and the near departure of his father back to Morocco. Due to his father’s leaving, Karim was forced to become the “man of the household” at an early age and support his mother and two brothers through any means he deemed possible.
As Karim spoke only Arabic and French, many of his colleagues branded him with the name “Bonjour;” however, Karim rebranded himself as “French” and then became “Young French” when he was a battle rapper before finally adding Montana in honor of Scarface’s Tony Montana to complete his name. In his second studio album that peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, Jungle Rules, French Montana pays tribute to his African roots and childhood promise with his mother by traveling to Uganda to film “Unforgettable” featuring platinum-selling artist Swae Lee. According to Karim, he made a promise to his mother when they moved to the U.S. promising he would hustle very hard to make his “accomplishments unforgettable,” hustling in the South Bronx to make a living. This is why the single’s cover photo is his parents’ marriage photo as the cover of “Unforgettable,” French Montana opens up to share this personal story of Karim Kharbough. He claims the photo to be representative of “unforgettable” as the year of marriage was also when Karim was born and his father was incarcerated.
While the lyrics don’t highlight Montana’s personal struggles, the music video is really what sparked many interest. In the music video, Karim is dressed in his Moroccan clothing and dancing with kids living in poverty in Kampala, Uganda. He is proud to be Moroccan and presents all three flags of Morocco, America, and Uganda with the young community. While people are unable to enjoy as many luxuries and sometimes what would be considered necessities, the bright smiling of the children and high-energy community of everyone dancing together shows that life is good and nothing is bringing these kids down. The dancing style incorporates freestyling, call-in-response dancing, Afrobeats, and synchronization, all aspects of African hip hop culture. Karim probably saw his younger self in these kids as he grew up in Morocco with little to nothing, and believes that these kids can hustle to reach their ideal position like Karim has attained today.
At the end of the music video, he zooms the camera out from the town of Kampala to show the aerial view that will eventually encompass African soldiers that will take Karim hostage. I believe he includes this bit to emphasize the hardships that the Uganda children are facing in their community. While corruption and fear is prevalent in militant groups in Africa, children must and will create their own unforgettable experiences that they strive to create.
After the filming of this music video, French Montana accompanied by Toronto rapper The Weekend, built a hospital in Uganda. What was originally 2 rooms for 300,000 people became 50 rooms after he gave $100,000 to the Mama Hope Foundation. Thank you French Montana for giving back to your culture, your roots, and your people.