By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Handsome Boy Modeling School
So... How's Your Girl?
I NEVER EXPECTED to hear the wonderfully frog-voiced comedian Bob Elliot (of Bob & Ray) dialoguing with son Chris on a hip-hop track, much less providing the signature moment (a sampled scene from Get a Life) for this season's most enjoyable hip-hop masterpiece. But then, everything about Handsome Boy Modeling School feels like a bonus--another sprawling work from Prince Paul, here teaming with Dan "The Automator" Nakamura of Dr. Octagon "fame," just months after the release of Paul's universally toasted A Prince Among Thieves. Freed of that album's narrative thread (like films and comedy albums, rap operas aren't meant for the repeat button), this outing feels more utilitarian and more open, closer to the free-associative spirit of Paul's inner De La Soul than his Psychoanalysis over the sorry state of big-money rap.
Though it's satisfying listening to a house full of guest stars loot the producer-DJ's stylistic refrigerator, the deeper meaning buried in So... How's Your Girl's might not kick in until halfway through the Colin Powell administration. In the meantime, the Boys let us soak up the signifiers. Paul samples a man saying, "Oh my God, they're gorgeous," about the Handsomes--can you imagine Dre trying that? Or what about that chic cigars-and-martinis sleeve spread, subverted only by Paul's fake mustache keeping it unreal?
Then there's the way these two hip-hop standard-bearers seem intent on bending the basket so that a passel of nonplayers can try their game on the big court. The Sixties-rock organ-grind of "Rock n' Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This)" is a clever enough answer to the separatism of Mos Def's racially charged "Rock N Roll," and the duo calls on a multiracial cast of both rock and rap weirdos. Besides Beastie Boy Mike D, Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and other semi-stars, there are whole cuts shaped by the likes of German technoid punk Alec Empire and Brooklyn's so-underground-he-farts-lava Sensational. There's a skull-hard beat boosting a looped NPR jingle--how not hard is that?
And how cool is it to play this loudly while shopping for a replacement cheap-ass boom box at Target? I got more than a few approving that's some wacked-out shit responses as I walked among the new-CD bins full of disposable corporate merch. These Handsome Boys aren't protesting, they're just shopping for something better.
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