What a difference a year makes. On Nov. 21, 2019, French Montana decided to change his life after waking up in an intensive care unit in a San Fernando Valley hospital in Los Angeles. Now, the Moroccan-born, Bronx native is entering what he proclaims as his "second chapter in the game."

Last month, on Nov. 24, French stepped in front of the camera for his second XXL digital cover story—the first being in 2016. For this digital issue, photographed by Ahmed Klink, the multiplatinum-selling rapper prides himself on his growth following a year of health scares. "I feel like for my fans and XXL fans, it kinda like, people see me growing and it's a beautiful thing," French says. "I feel like the growth, and people just seeing my elevation, the ups, the downs and seeing that we're still here doing it and looking better than yesterday."

French looks at his first chapter in the game as having the ability to get out the hood and use his platform to elevate. Most importantly, in doing so, he was able to bring his mother back to Africa (she hails from Morocco) with her head held high. "Everything I did was working toward that moment," the 36-year-old artist shares. "And then when she goes back home, after the sacrifice, she walk in with her head high, you know what I'm saying? That was my chapter one. There is no other accomplishment that can beat that. Not a Grammy, not nothing else, you know, ’cause I coulda got all that, she a never made it back to see the family, I'd a failed. You know, so me just doing that last year is when I stopped that first chapter and I was like, now I could focus on French Montana, you know what I'm saying? So, now it's free for all."

For 2021, French is focused on releasing a new documentary, which follows his journey from leaving Africa at 13 years old, speaking no English and calling the mecca of hip-hop, the Bronx, his new home. The untold stories, his roots, the Max B days, when he signed his first record label deal and more are all included in the new doc, all leading up to the French Montana his fans know today.

"It's a life-changing story to every immigrant out there that, you know, have a hope or feel like the picture is too big to paint to it, you know what I'm saying, to fit them shoes I feel like," he conveys. "It just makes you take that extra step if you, you know what I'm saying, if you in the same shoes. ’Cause I did it with no papers, I did it, you know, if I woulda got caught taking chances, I woulda got deported and then that woulda been a slap in my mother face ’cause she sacrificed..."

Part of the documentary will also include him discussing the health issues he faced when he spent over a week in the ICU last year. "I was runnin' for like a good 20 years without a break, and God put a stop to that," French admits. "I had a little health scare. I tell people all the time, 'If you don't end up in the ICU after your birthday, then it wasn't a good birthday.'" The rapper woke up in the ICU on Nov. 21, 2019, 11 days after his 35th birthday on Nov. 9.

French attributes the cause of him passing out before he was rushed to the hospital to being drained after performing in five different countries in one week. At the time, TMZ reported he experienced cardiac issues, stomach pains and an elevated heart rate prior to being admitted to the hospital. He admits it was "a combination of a lot of things: being fatigued, dehydrated, you know, losing myself chasing money, chasing the wrong things." By the time French got back to Los Angeles, he reveals he collapsed. "Too much drinking, too many pills, you know, boom."

The "Unforgettable" rapper confesses that he would take Adderall when he wanted to stay up and Percocets for pain relief, which ultimately became a "hobby" for him and then it ended up being an addiction. "I feel like 90 percent of musicians on that," he discloses.

"It was just overdoing something for too long," French continues. "And, to the point where, now sober is becoming my new high. People seen I was out of control, not me, you know what I'm saying? ’Cause, you know, it's almost like, you know, working out. You don't see you getting big ’cause you see yourself every day. It's the same thing with you being out of control."

Ahmed Klink for XXL
Ahmed Klink for XXL

These days, it's mind, health and body first for French Montana. "The new thing is the triple R thing: you gotta be rich in health, rich in spirit and rich with money," he maintains. "If all you got is money, you don't got nothing. And that's the thing that I got closer to, you know. And you got closer to God, too. Nobody make it this far. Look, Chinx died, Max B doin' 75 years, my brother got deported, my best friend doing 20 years and it's just like, I'm left out, you know what I'm saying? So, it's like just seeing that he [God] got a mission for me. So, get closer to him to figure out what that mission is."

Now, it's French Montana 2.0. "That's why I took a break. I said, 'Look, as I hard I was going on my grind, I'm ’bout to go on myself. And put everybody I was putting in the front on the back burner and put myself in that seat. And I just, you know, I just did French 2.0. And this is how I changed it. Stepped back, took two steps back, didn't drop no music, detox from social media...everybody is drugged up...Everything got control of my life but me, you know what I'm saying? It was a mixture of things, you know what I'm saying? And I think that was like the hardest thing I ever did in my life, to snatch myself back...So, for me to stop everything and just step back, that was like one of my biggest accomplishments. Top two, it's after taking my mother back to Africa...So that was the day, it was Nov. 21, [2019] last year. And since that day, I never had a drink. I just made a year."

In the new year, French's fourth studio album will arrive. Last month, he dropped CB5, the fifth installment of his Coke Boys mixtape series, which kicked off in 2010. While the New York rhymer provides few details on what will be featured on the forthcoming album or its official 2021 release date, French confirms he is putting the finishing touches on it.

Fans can also expect to see more from French Montana and Jim Jones next year as the two rappers have officially squashed their 15-year-old beef. In April, both artists confirmed they put their issues to rest. "Something 2.0 for French, besides putting a mixtape on a major platform for the first time, is ending my beef with Jim Jones that I was beefing with for 15 years," French expresses. "And yesterday [Nov. 23], we shut down the bridge in the middle of the city [in New York], that connect, you know, Harlem and The Bronx, and it was a moment where there was 100 gangstas...and everybody like standing, like, you know, one side stand on one side, and just like, the love was so immaculate and there was just a moment for hip-hop that was just like, damn, I wish I woulda did this before."

Hindsight is 2020.

Watch French Montana's XXL digital cover story video interview above.

See Photos From French Montana's XXL Digital Cover Story

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