3MFrench has had a crazy year—between managing his own label (Tripl3 M) and dropping collab after collab, it’s easy to see how the Scarborough native is veritably blowing up after years of being on the scene. His years of artistry and staying on the grind come through on his latest album Makin Money Moves. 3MFrench didn’t title the album in jest—the rapper is taking it to heart, still pushing the hip-hop frontier for his community, even in the ongoing pandemic.
“I just wanna see my city at the top,” the rapper told us. “I see a lot of artists in Atlanta working together. I’m working with a lot of artists to work towards that.”
The entirety of French’s approach is rooted in a single philosophy: everyone having a seat at the table. The rapper came up on hard times in Scarborough with a lot of other longtime friends—now he wants to make sure that when he has success, his friends can see success too.
“I want to make sure everybody eats. When we do well, we go back to our neighbourhoods and help out there too. It all goes around. There’s enough room for everybody.”
Nothing backs this up like Makin Money Moves, a 10-track summer classic with guest vocals from Archee and longtime collaborator and French’s dear friend, the late Bvlly (who was tragically shot and killed last December). The record itself has all the vibe and energy of a seamless, sweet summer in Toronto, and is another hard-hitter in the ever-evolving canon defining the East Coast Canadian sound. An example is “In Da Field,” an easy hit off the tracklist—the song comes in at just under three minutes and takes you through a candied pop melody teased over top a crisp tempo with even faster rhymes paced atop. It’s a summertime banger for you and the crew, splayed out over blankets at The Beaches, a cold drink in hand, the sounds floating through blistering heat from the portable speaker.
“I rap, but I do like some melodic sounds that are a little bit catchy,” admits French. “I’m versatile. Some guys I run with have strong lyrics—Smallz, TwoTwo—they have bars and lyrics. Everybody brings a little something different to the game. The fans like versatility.”
We managed to snag some time with 3MFrench—who just dropped the video for his single “Demon Time” (watch below)—to talk about the stories from his neighbourhood that find their way into his music, his beef with the Toronto Sun, and what it was like to work with the late Bvlly.
How did you get started making music?
A few of my friends and I used chill when I was 13 or 14 with an artist named Mista Smallz. He was just doing shows and turning up the whole city. I used to go to his studio sessions. One day I just started rapping and freestyling because I thought it looked like it was fun. Then I released a couple videos, and the first time I heard my own music in public I was at a shush spot. I’ll never forget. I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, I gotta keep doing this.’
What made you want to start your own label?
I told myself I would be independent from the jump. I looked up to artists like Nipsey Hustle. I did a lot of research on labels. I didn’t want to be one of the artists that got taken advantage of—I wanted to make sure me and everyone I worked with shared in our success and could eat together.
A lot of people on your label are childhood friends of yours. Is there a common experience we’ll hear throughout the label?
Well, we were all raised in the same neighbourhood; we had a chance of going to jail or not even making it out. Cops just wanted to take us off the streets. I’m trying to be the voice of the streets. I’m trying to show the world that it’s hard to grow up where I came from. Police brutality is real. I want to open people’s eyes so they can see what we had to go through.
“I don’t glorify gun violence but it’s reality and people need to understand it. Rappers are trying to change their neighbourhoods. When artists do well, they come back and they change their neighbourhoods.”
What are your fans like?
I’m not used to all of that—having fans and stuff. I started out going to malls, restaurants, public places, and now I’m out here getting recognized. I never looked at it like that, but I started getting used to it and taking pictures. They’re the ones that push me and motivate me. Those messages make me wanna go out there. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them. If I go to my neighbourhood all the kids are running towards me. I feel like Drake in my neighbourhood.
There was a piece in the Toronto Sun that talked about everything with Bvlly and blamed you and other rappers for promoting gun violence. What the fuck?
Toronto Sun is closed-minded. We don’t get the opportunities to get where we wanna get in life. We don’t promote violence. We’re trying to tell our story, but we will tell the story we were raised around.
I don’t glorify gun violence but it’s reality and people need to understand it. Rappers are trying to change their neighbourhoods. When artists do well, they come back and they change their neighbourhoods.
Bvlly was a good-hearted, hard-working guy. He was my favourite person to collaborate with. That hurt the streets when he passed away. A lot of artists passed away to gun violence. It’s bad in the city right now.
You collaborated with Bvlly extensively. What makes you want to work with someone?
Why can’t we work together? That’s what the fans and industry want. Fans wanna hear what that would sound like. Why not take the chance? You can’t limit yourself.
So how’s that process made its way to your latest release?
I wanted to do this for my fans. I actually put in the hard work and dedication. YoungTN is my main engineer and producer. My favourite song is “Fly Away”—there’s a lot going on in the city, so if you listen to it, it’s really just about Toronto. You know, “My city is getting hot, it’s time to fly away.” “Demon Time” is another favourite—it’s a more dancehall kinda song. “A Part of Me” is a song for my friends who believed in me and told me to keep pushing. He was in the cells and listening to my music on Flow 93.5 and calling me every day in the studio pushing me to keep going.
Love to hear dancehall making its way into music out here. Have a favourite artist?
I love reggae and pop—we listen to Vybz Kartel and the like. We wanted to drop a sound like that for this summer.
Fave Vybz Kartel song?
Whatever gets the party going. He’s very talented.
Back to Toronto: what do you think makes the sound out here so distinctive?
Toronto paved the way. A lot of people are out here working together, solving issues, putting the problems aside, making the city bigger. It’s international and all around the world.
What makes Toronto different?
It’s based on the streets. But that’s everywhere too. I think Toronto is different: you can make anything happen here. It takes the right people to do it. And there’s a lot of good people in this city, and people making opportunities in this city. You can do a lot here.
Everyone has their own sound but when we’re in the same room we can make something happen. We work as a team. It helps us build and get better. We’re gonna get to the top and get where we wanna go.