The first time I heard March Madness, it was nothing short of a religious experience. Truthfully, I had no clue what Future was saying at first (and admittedly after 1,000 spins still struggle in some parts) but the experience of listening to it was one I won’t forget. It was frenetic energy on speed; an altogether full body liberation. He could have been rapping the alphabet and it would not have mattered. Future was able to perfectly capture the zeitgeist of frustration, indifference, and rage in this track of the year.
Future’s rise was shocking. I can’t say that I saw it coming at all. This is not a slight at his talent, but a recognition of many Atlanta artists whose failed careers litter the red clay after fits and starts and one hit wonders. So once Future first broke through in 2011-12, I imagined it would be a short stay. Surprisingly and happily, he has grown with each project, which culminated with a furious run since Monster to now.
When we debate who won 2015 musically, one would be hard pressed to argue anyone besides Hendrix. Drake had an awesome year by any measure, but with him it is expected. Future catapulted to the top through a method not entirely unseen before as Lil Wayne was an early pioneer of the album quality mixtape. (Wayne’s run from 2005-08, basically the gap between Carter’s 2 and 3 still stands as one of the most legendary runs of musical excellence seen in rap). The sudden turn is what was unexpected. Prior to this, Future had developed into a quality artist but not anything beyond that. His albums (Pluto and Honest) were both good at best but often sounded forced in many areas. He was a prominent voice in hip hop, but had seemed to become a sideshow in some ways, similar to T Pain (who I love) as the go to featured guest. But since Monster, this run has completely changed his trajectory.
March Madness honestly is a song built on non-sequiturs, but in the chorus there is one important line, “cops shooting n--gas tragic”, that stands out apart. Police brutality and the hunting season on black lives has been more prevalent than usual.* It has been a bloody year by all accounts with tragedies of varying degrees daily jockeying for the nation's tears and attention. In some bizarre way, March Madness served as a political statement in its energy and fury for much of the frustration and abandonment of black kids, by abandonment meaning a nation and system that has hung these kids out to dry and as target practice despite their stated duty to protect and serve. MM differs from much of Future’s output as most of his songs sound laced with a haze and detachedness only possible through the drug use he frequently wanes for. MM is a focused, angry effort, one dripping with urgency and direction. If he lyrically did not break any new ground, his energy emphatically summed up many listeners thoughts and emotions on the current plight.
It is a fitting song for a turbulent time, a cacophony of emotions and sounds that sums up 2015 in one furious burst. What A Time To Be Alive. Happy New Year’s.
* that’s not true, it's been an issue since forever, just now more publicity and media. Thank God for social media, where anyone with a camera phone becomes a journalist instantly