Handsome Boy Modeling School is made up of two of music’s most experimental producers/composers/..whatever: Dan the Automator of Deltron 3030 and The Gorillaz, and Prince Paul (formerly) of RZA’s Gravediggaz and De La Soul. This is a two-man group to rival Blue Man Group in terms of sheer creativity with music (and what music actually means); the album, as can be expected, is an excersize in trying to see how many genres they can bend without breaking.
1) Rock ’n Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This)
Starts off with a short skit, followed by voice samples over a heavy guitar. The vocals eventually cut out, leaving room for some nice record scratching. Later in the track, the instrumental completely morphs (briefly) into a drum track with some horns blowing over it. Pretty much the intro to the album. (Good)
2) Magnetizing ft. Del tha Funkee Homosapien
A friend of both producers, rapper Del guests over this stifling, dark-piano track with haunting Asian flutes. He does a good job flowing over the odd track, lyrically good as always, and even adds to the effect as his voice can be quite haunting. (Great)
3) Metaphysical ft. Miho Hattori of Cibo Matto & Mike D of the Beastie Boys
The track is based around a gothic organ which alternates with a happy-go-lucky piano. Miho covers the first three “verses” with a Stephen Hawking-sounding lecture on the metaphysical, while Mike D simply talks over the track. No rhyming done, plenty of musical experimentation. (Decent)
4) Look At This Face (Oh My God They’re Gorgeous)
Starts off with a funny skit about a kid trying to show his dad what handsome is; quickly goes into a classical-flavored instrumental, over which drops a heavy bass/drum. The group’s namesake is revealed here, from a skit on a short-lived sitcom. (Good)
5) Waterworld ft. Encore
A dangerous-sounding, banging piano over a marching drum track, dripping sounds and a pulsing organ set the background for Cali rapper Encore to kick some intricate verses. (Great)
6) Once Again (Here to Kick One For You) ft. Grand Puba & Sadat X of Brand Nubian
This beat has a meandering synth mixed with a quick horn and a hard drum. The vocal samples on the hook and the catchy relative simplicity of the beat give it the feel of a DJ Premier cut. The Brand Nubian duo both step up to bless the track with their trademark. (Excellent)
7) The Truth ft. Roisin of Moloko & J-Live
This is a slower track, with a loungy feel to it given by the slow piano, the mournful singing by Roisin, and the jazzy bass and horn blats in the background. A little past the halfway mark, J-Live’s verse comes in; as with the others, he comes correct both flow-wise and lyrically. (Excellent)
8) Holy Calamity (Bear Witness II) ft. DJ Shadow & DJ Quest
This is a creativity-mash which teams Paul and Dan with legendary Bay-area producer DJ Shadow and the predominantly-techno DJ Quest. This energetic track starts off with a yelling vocal sample which moves into a pseudo late-80’s rap beat, complete with break beats, B-Boyish vocal samples, a fat horn, quick trumpet blats and–later on–massive amounts of scratching. About 3/4ths of the way into the track the scratching stops briefly for a beatboxing interlude. (Great)
9) Calling the Biz
A short interlude, a call about the HBMS project.
10) The Projects (P Jays) ft. Dave of De La Soul & Del tha Funkee Homosapien
A disjointed piano set to a drawn-out, high-pitched harmonica drawl over a sloppy bass becomes the perfect mishmash of sounds for Dave and Del to rap slurring, sometimes-humorous verses about the ghetto. Del’s lazy stylings remind one of a version of Ludacris “done right,” as it were. (Great)
11) Sunshine ft. Sean Lennon, Money Mark, Father Guido Sarducci, Josh Hayden of Spain & Paula Frazer of Tarnation
This laid-back, sunny strings track sees a slew of singers–including Sean Lennon, also of Cibo Matto and the son of John Lennon and Yoko Onno–singing about forgetting one’s troubles and longing for love while Father Sarducci speaks in the background. (Good)
12) Modeling Sucks
This track, which samples a certain famous classical composition, finds the enthusiastic young man from earlier in the album disillusioned by the shady work and hard times of the cutthroat male modeling industry.
13) Torch Song Trilogy ft. Sensational
A spaced-out 50’s sci-fi movie style xylophone (?) kicks off the track, reminiscent of Psycho Social LP-era Jedi Mind Tricks, wherein experimental MC Sensational–of the same school of Hip-Hop that birthed Kool Keith and MF Doom–kicks a slurred, mumbly freestyle verse that somehow works. Good if you like lo-fi stream of consciousness type rap. (Good)
14) The Runaway Song ft. DJ Kid Koala
A snoopy tuba over an organ with some vocal samples fills out the round, plodding flavor of this cut. More scratching marks this as a definite DJ track.
15) Megaton B-Boy 2000 ft. Alec Empire & El-P of Company Flow
The banging-on-metal-pipes drums and electronic distortion-turned-background mark this as a definite El-P track. Producto himself shouts in his trademark fragmented style over the mass of electric noise, with cybernetic bleeps thrown in later for good measure; but this is like El-P on overdrive–we’ve rarely heard even El-P this daring. (Good)
16) Father Speaks
A man who sounds like the SoBe commercial guy speaks on his good experiences in the Handsome Boy Modeling School.
My Rating: 4.5/5
In terms of sheer creativity, Dan the Automator and Prince Paul can’t be beat, especially when they team up together. Their magic touch somehow seems to make everything they put their hand to sound good in some way or another. A great foray into all the facets of rap music and musical experimentation, past and present.