Artist: Handsome Boy Modeling SchoolTitle: White PeopleRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jesse Fairfax
Prince Paul has been long revered for his zany humor and creativity which knows no bounds. He’s the mastermind behind De La Soul’s golden days, MC Paul Barman’s It’s Very Stimulating EP, and the concept albums Psychoanalysis and A Prince Among Thieves; just a few of his highlights. Less recognized but equally creative and prolific has been Dan The Automator whose projects have included Kool Keith’s Dr. Octagon album, Deltron 3030, Gorillaz, and Lovage. The two paired up in 1999 as Handsome Boy Modeling School forSo…How’s Your Girl?, the follow up White People (Atlantic/Elektra) is everything and nothing you’d expect.
There is a noticeable difference between the first and second album from this outfit. The former was a Hip-hop album with an experimental tone, this is an experimental album with Hip-hop mixed in for good measure. De La Soul & Starchild Excalibur open with “If It Wasn’t For You”. Posdnuos and Trugoy show love for things that have made a difference in their lives, backed by chimes that sound reminiscent of an ice cream truck. “The World’s Gone Mad” features Del The Funky Homosapien, Barrington Levy, and Alex Kapranos (of the recently successful Franz Ferdinand). Del rhymes of progression and the state of world affairs with an old school guitar on the hook. On paper this is weird but the results work well. “It’s Like That” by Casual and “First…And Then” by Dres of Black Sheep fame are more standard Hip-hop songs and both are executed nicely with good lyrics. “The Hours” featuring Chino Moreno (of The Deftones), El-P and Cage is a hard rock jam with spacey background noise one would associate with Def Jux. The highlights are “A Day In The Life” featuring The Rza, Mars Volta and AG over a funky bassline, and “Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This) Part 2”, an epic tribute to hip-hop’s pioneers. Lord Finesse, Mike Shinoda & Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park), Rahzel, Q-Bert, Grand Wizard Theodore & Jazzy Jay play their parts over switching melodies from Hip-hop to rock to classical.
The rest of the album includes slower r&b contributions from a mix of old, new, popular and cult favorites. “The Greatest Mistake” is a nice ballad by John Oates and Jamie Cullum. Pharrell Williams (yes, that Pharrell Williams) and Julee Cruise duet on “Class System”. Other guests include Cat Power, Mike Patton and Jack Johnson. These productions are hot and cold, proving Paul & Dan’s ultimate strengths lie in the making of Hip-hop leaning tunes. The end results of this second collaboration wind up pleasing those willing to go along for the ride.