From the very moment the horns from the Lords of the Underground's 1993 classic "Funky Child" sound until the moment that "Shorty got potential, I could be her sponsor" is heard, it was evident that French Montana had a hit on his hands with "Shot Caller." Montana's rise to prominence wasn't that instantaneous, however.
French Montana has been making noise on New York City's underground rap scene since the early 2000s with his "Cocaine City" DVD series. Montana hoped the street series — showcasing interviews with big-name artists like T.I. and then unknowns like Nicki Minaj and Waka Flocka — would help broaden his fanbase in the same way other up-and-comers hoped their mixtapes did.
He started gaining a lot of momentum later on in the decade, especially when he and Max B teamed up to drop the Coke Wave mixtape series. That momentum slowed when the Biggaveli was incarcerated, but Montana never stopped working. Fast-forward a couple of years and he found himself in the middle of speculation concerning whether he would sign with Kanye West, Diddy, Rick Ross or Jay-Z — two of the Bronx MC's suitors, Rick Ross and Diddy, even hopped on the remix of "Shot Caller." Wherever Montana landed, it was clear he wanted to be the main attraction.
"I rather be LeBron in Cleveland than LeBron in Heat, so you read between the lines," French said. "Wherever I go, I'd rather be the star than have to sit there. I worked this hard to get here so when I step in, I have to be the main focus."
On Thursday, French ended the speculation when he hit BET's "106 & Park," making a splashy appearance with his new label boss: Diddy. With rappers assembling crews like a game of dodgeball during PE, Montana promises to be a star as he puts his John Hancock — insert obligatory "pause" — on a Bad Boy contract. And with the streets already flooded with mixtape material and a joint LP with Waka on the way, there's no question that the work ethic is there.
Hottest Breakthrough MCs was established by MTV News in 2010 as a fan-driven initiative that spotlights, celebrates and cultivates new talent. MTV News chose a pool of young rappers and urged fans to vote for their favorite. When it was all said and done, Wiz Khalifa emerged as the Hottest Breakthrough of last year. The competition was tough, but the Taylor Gang General beat out runner-up Nicki Minaj, ATL group Travis Porter, Diggy Simmons and J. Cole. This year, you can vote for Machine Gun Kelly (or your favorite up-and-comer) over at RapFix.MTV.com, and be sure to check back for daily updates and poll results. Each day, we'll spotlight a new Hottest Breakthrough MC before we conclude on December 13 when the polls close at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC will be revealed during December 14's "RapFix Live," during which the winner will appear as our in-studio guest. There will also be a special announcement about MTV News' upcoming Hottest MCs in the Game list and debate. To be considered a Hottest Breakthrough MC, an artist cannot have released a major-label full-length album. Finalists from 2010's Hottest Breakthrough MCs poll will not be eligible for 2011 consideration, so unfortunately, Diggy Simmons and Travis Porter won't be part of this conversation.
Who do you think should be 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC? Share your picks in the comments!
Stick with MTV News as we profile the 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MCs before announcing the winner December 13 on "RapFix Live" — vote now!