Handsome Boy Modeling School
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by T.J. Simon
Handsome Boy Modeling School is the collaboration between hip-hop producers Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and "Prince Paul" Huston. The duo’s first album (1999’s So…How’s Your Girl) was a fun-filled romp through the lighthearted yet funky side of hip-hop and soul. Vocals were provided by a who’s-who from the world of smart, underground rap — Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Biz Markie, and Brand Nubian, to name a few — and the DJ-turntable acrobatics were lively and accessible to the masses, stuffed full of funny samples from Chris Elliot’s cult sitcom Get a Life from which Handsome Boy Modeling School took its name.
Handsome Boy Modeling School’s recently released sophomore effort White People expands the vision of the group’s debut by involving a wider array of artists in the collaborative process. De La Soul contributes a great number in If It Wasn’t for You, and Del Tha Funky Homosapien returns with the disc’s finest rap track The World’s Gone Mad, which features a reggae dance-hall chorus from Barrington Levy and guitars from Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. The album’s most impressive DJ number is the massive collaborative track Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This), Part 2.
The main thing that sets White People apart from its predecessor is the use of lots of, well, white people. For example, Handsome Boy Modeling School adds a dash of funk to surf-boy Jack Johnson’s catchy Breakdown, and Cat Power delivers a sultry performance on I’ve Been Thinking. Elsewhere, Faith No More’s Mike Patton contributes to the so-so Are You Down with It, and The Mars Volta provides the music behind RZA’s rhymes on A Day in the Life. The most pleasant surprise on the album, however, is the unlikely pairing of John Oates with U.K. twenty-something piano man Jamie Cullum on Greatest Mistake. By all rights, the track should have been a lemon, but it turned out to be quite sharp and compelling.
The problem with White People, however, is that its enjoyment is diminished by the blight of recorded hip-hop: the spoken-word skit. Handsome Boy Modeling School tapped Father Guido Sarducci, who was funny 25 years ago, and Tim "The Ladies Man" Meadows, who never was very funny, for "comedic" interludes throughout the album. Even worse, many of the skits are tacked onto the end of otherwise terrific tracks, so not even a touch of home-editing will remove them without an inordinate amount of difficulty. Why the rap music community embraces this practice remains a mystery, as it only serves to mar otherwise solid releases such as White People.
White People is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box