VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hearts and Minds (a compilation benefiting Madison’s Homeless Cooperative Newspaper)
(2006 Independent Release)
Madison’s Homeless Cooperative, a newspaper put out by the Madison Warming Center Campaign, just got a new name, Street Pulse, and a new office, the latter of which was one of the stated goals of this compilation. Plus, they’ve seen their circulation climb from 2000 to 3000 in their first four months of publication. Efforts like Hearts and Minds have increased awareness of this project, which was founded by students and homeless people who sell the papers for $1 an issue. Much the way that the anti-war No Camouflage compilation released last year used soldier testimonials to bring the message home, the CD uses statements from the homeless, along with a brief description of the inspiration from founding editor, UW student Mel Motel, to tell their stories. Unlike that project, however, in which most artists used the platform to vent against the Iraq war and the government, few of the songs on this disc actually deal with the issue at hand. Not that it’s a problem. While people will always disagree about politics, no one is in favor of homelessness.
The CD was produced by el guante and DJ Pain1, so it is no surprise that it contains a fair amount of hip-hop and rap. Addressing the purpose directly, el guante’s “Never People” may be the stand-out track with its chorus of “Never ever seen so, seen so, so many never people people no.” The line, “It won’t matter how many CDs you sold / It won’t matter if your song got played / What really matters is the people you helped along the way” succinctly states his mission. Bass Is Loaded Coalition samples Bowie’s “Changes” on their contribution, the wordy “Committed.” 20 Reasons Taken blend rap and rock effectively on “Take on My World” while the Figureheads use electronic beats to back their vocals on “Yesterday’s Rain.” Know Boundaries astutely dissects the way advertising determines our self-worth and self-image on “You Look Good (But You Could Always Look Better).”
The rest of the tracks run the gamut from the spoken-word pieces of David Hart and Eric Mata to the strangely affecting trip-hop of RKS’s “Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat.” Mata’s “V Train to Manhattan” which describes in uncomfortably vivid detail the plight of a homeless man sleeping on a subway platform is even more jarring following the sunny pop of the admittedly out-of-place German Art Students’ “Cruise Control Captain.” Meanwhile, Cougar’s “Pulse Conditioner” from their John McEntire-mixed debut Law uses infectious steel drum percussion on their inspired instrumental. The always-interesting Stonefloat contributes the echo-y “Gingersnapps > Dunskirk,” a surreal mix of music and voice. For most this CD would be worth buying just for its worthy cause, but for fans of the local rap scene it’s even more essential.