For Khadija, the amazing rise of Moroccan-born, multi-platinum recording artist French Montana, who raises his three young sons as a single mother in the Bronx after being ditched by their father and left penniless.
A rapper escaping difficult circumstances to triumph as an artist is a deeply American story and a hip-hop archetype. French Montana is expanding that dynamic with For Khadija, a documentary about his family’s 1996 emigration from Morocco to the Bronx.
The documentary, which premieres on 16 June 2023 at the Tribeca Film Festival, tells a remarkable story of having to give up his college basketball dreams due to a lack of a green card, turning to the streets when he saw few other options available, and then finding a way out through music and his Cocaine City DVDs, in which he conducted raw, on-the-street interviews with artists such as 50 Cent and Young Jeezy. The Mandon Lovett-directed movie also places a strong emphasis on his mother, Khadija Guled, who stayed in America to raise French and his two brothers, Zach and Ayoub, when their father, who brought the family to America, had some misfortune and returned to Africa.
“Khadija has a lot to do with my music,” French adds, “but it’s mostly an immigrant story about a mother who struggled for 20-something years and didn’t see her family to make sure her kids are okay.” The release is accompanied with a public service announcement about resources for fellow immigrants created in collaboration with Informed Immigrant, which provides assistance to undocumented individuals and families in the United States.
French is working on an official soundtrack with documentary participants and “whoever was a part of my career,” including Rick Ross and Kodak Black. The documentary, which was executive-produced by Drake and Sean “Diddy” Combs, includes commentary from both music legends as well as Fat Joe and French’s currently incarcerated best pal Max B, who was granted permission to participate from East Jersey State Prison.
While the majority of the video is about Khadija and contains her commentary, French claims she had no idea what she was recording for — and that she’s so out of touch with modern culture that the Tribeca premiere would come as a surprise to her. French discussed his mother, his rise in the Bronx rap culture, and why immigration impacts us all.
It feels the same to me. Morocco is a completely distinct culture, and no one ever leaves. In the Bronx, you earn love by working hard. This is hip-hop’s Mecca. Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas sprang to mind when I arrived from Africa. It was reminiscent of the 1996 Chicago Bulls. It felt as if me trying to rap was a joke, as a youngster who had just returned from Africa. Accepting love from [the Bronx] and love from Africa is a good thing. It was a fantastic journey, man. It’s an impossible journey, but everything seems impossible until the fool comes along and does it.