The sweaters are out, TV shows have resumed and actual referees are back on the field. The best music writing this week came to play, too, and had us feeling emotions. Dry news reports these aren't, revealing as they do the heady anticipation in front of a promising young musician, the craggy swirl of familial relationships and the rocky road of fandom.
Get ready for Monday with these three stories.
Recently successful rapper French Montana visits his birthplace of Casablanca for the first time since he left the country at the age of 13. He brings along his youngest brother, who was born in New York, his manager and reporter Zach Baron, who documents a trip during which French is greeted as a celebrity and an unknown, a nephew and a tourist, and discovers that the family he left behind in Morocco has been moving forward with a velocity he can't imagine (he might not even be its most successful member). He also avoids, for as long as possible, the ostensible reason for the voyage — seeing his father for the first time in 16 years. Everything after the words "recently successful rapper" in that description is enough to make this an unconventional profile, but you get to see about a dozen more surprising, minor scenes that lay bare the aspiration, pride, anger and joy that have helped make hip-hop a global force and Montana an illustration of its potential. —Jacob Ganz
In the past couple years Kendrick Lamar has become one of the most acclaimed musicians working, on the strength of a handful of mixtapes and without a club banger. Even though he's widely respected, some are worried that Lamar's major label debut, out in a few weeks, won't live up to the hype or, worse, no one will notice if it doesn't. Writing at Passion of the Weiss, Scott Leedy draws a comparison to Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, which was anointed before it actually dropped, as he examines how Lamar could be received. Will his major label debut set the bar for his work so high that he'll forever struggle to live up to it, as Illmatic did for Nas? Or, will we refuse to acknowledge the record's flaws and label it a classic regardless of what it actually sounds like? One can only hope, whatever the reaction, "it's a reflection of how good good kid, m.A.A.d city is, not how good we want it to be." —Briana Younger
When Ben Folds Five broke up in 2000, teenaged superfan Rachael Maddux was devastated. A dozen years later, the band is back on tour with a new record and Maddux sets out for the Atlanta show with anticipation. But a dozen years have also passed for Maddux and she finds herself hearing the band through the prism of her adult self. With her own set of relationships and breakups and a sharpened feminist lens, the songs just don't hold up anymore. Maybe some bands are better left in our past. —Amy Schriefer