French Montana has been grinding for years, but to many the XXL Freshman is still a relative newcomer. Though he has more than a dozen mixtapes, Montana has yet to release his debut album — it's scheduled to drop July 17. Still, French initially felt he had surpassed the current crop of rap rookies and almost turned down the cover opportunity, until he thought about it a little more.

"I kinda like wasn't gonna do it, because I felt like I deserved it two years ago, last year. You know how that goes," French told Sway on Wednesday's episode of "RapFix Live."

After a meeting with the magazine's staff, French changed his mind and agreed to shoot the cover with rappers like his Bad Boy labelmate Machine Gun Kelly, Iggy Azalea and Future. "They were like, 'This is based upon if you don't have an album out.' But to me I looked at it as another stepping stone because I respect everything they do," French told Sway. "I said, 'I really don't have no album out and I'm still like a rookie to the mainstream world.' "

It's been a long road for the Morocco-born, Bronx, New York-raised rapper. Wanting to make a name for himself, French started a series of street-flavored DVD documentaries that he branded "Cocaine City" in 2003. He covered the hottest rap talent but created a platform where he could show off his own music as well.

The tactic worked, but it did have some setbacks. "My vision for that was a platform for me to showcase my talent," he said. "When we were doin' the 'Cocaine City' DVDs, we kinda like attacked a lot of rappers, because, you know, negativity spreads faster. So you did what you had to do. So it backfired on me when I was trying to rap."

Frenchie feels that his negative coverage of other MCs caused him to be blackballed in the industry, but he continued to put out music. Now his "Shot Caller" single is climbing up the Billboard rap charts and the release of his debut album, Excuse My French, will be overseen by Diddy and Rick Ross. And, of course, French Montana appears on the XXL Freshman cover. Things are looking up.

What do you think of French Montana's inclusion on the 2012 XXL Freshman cover? Tell us in the comments!