In the latest episode of African Voices Changemakers, CNN’s Larry Madowo meets rap superstar French Montana who speaks about his journey and struggle from being a Moroccan immigrant in the US to a multi-platinum selling artist.
Montana, whose real name is Karim Kharbouch, was 13 when he and his family moved to America. He says they had a pretty comfortable life in Morocco and traded it to end up in one of the rougher parts of New York City. He speaks about his immigrant experience, “Americans, when they born, they’re born with social security. They’re born with so many benefits that we wasn’t able to get, when we came as African kids, we was immigrants. So we was moving like aliens. I couldn’t go to play basketball for college cause I couldn’t get a scholarship, cause I didn’t have social security. I didn’t have my papers. I couldn’t get a job.”
It was during this time that Montana inherited his ‘French’ nickname. He tells Madowo, “I was speaking to all the Africans that lived in my neighborhood in French. So, all the hustlers in my block heard me. They was like, who’s this kid? They’re speaking French. So, every time I would go to the store, somebody would be like, yo French, yo Frenchy, come here. So, it went from a joke to like, alright, you know what, I’m gonna take the name French and I’m gonna run with it.”
From his struggles in New York to finding superstardom Montana says, “I feel like success comes when you struggle. And it comes when a lot of people come together and sacrifice. Sacrifice is a big part of it. But people, we, don’t want to tell you about the struggle, what it took to get there. You know, I want to let people know you really want to do this? This is what happens.”
Montana recently premiered a new documentary about his life titled For Khadija, named for his mother. He says, “My mother could have went back [to Morocco], but she saw something that none of us seen. You know, she saw the future and she sacrificed. So, this doc is about that sacrifice.”
The director of For Khadija, Mandon Lovett describes why he wanted to work with Montana on the documentary, “Essentially, we see rap artists as these big sort of superheroes, larger than life figures. And at the end of the day, I knew that there was something that drove him and I wanted to get to the heart of what drives him, and ultimately I found out that it was his mother. And I think that he ultimately has seen the sacrifice of his mom and how much she gave up in order for him to achieve his dreams. And that really does fuel him.”
Montana concludes by speaking about his proudest achievement, “That I’ve paved the way for Africa. That I’ve paved a way from Morocco. That I showed ’em that anything is possible. Like you don’t have to put no limits on yourself. Just go out there and work and let Allah take care of the rest.”