Though an album by a producer/collective of producers is usually fairly unremarkable, you wouldn't be wrong to expect more from Prince Paul and the Automator. Known together as the Handsome Boys Modeling School (inspired by Chris Elliot's short lived sitcom 'Get A Life'), the duo and a whole host of diverse guests have produced possibly 199's finest album. While some hip-hop fans may be upset at the way 'So...Hows Your Girl?' crosses genre boundaries, I personally feels this just shows Paul and Automator's immense talent.
In terms of the tracks with your average beats and rhymes though, they do not disappoint. Encore comes surprisingly dope on 'Waterworld,' and Grand Puba and Sadat X also drop nice verses over the beat for 'Once Again.' Hieroglyphics' best MC, Del the Funkee Homospaien, has two of the entire album's best performances on 'Magnetizing' and the collabo with Trugoy the Dove on 'The Projects (P Jays).' The only MC on here that doesn't particularly impress me is El Producto, due mostly to Alex Reece's crazy track for 'Megaton B-Boy 2000,' which makes this joint more love/hate than anything even El-P's been on before.
When you start getting past those ones, you realize how atypical this album is. Most of the remaining stuff is very unorthodox, consisting of cuts, beats, the occasional bout of singing and a couple of raps too. 'Torch Song Trilogy' is a perfect example of the oddness, with a dark beat letting Sensational talk and rap while Automator cuts up the track. 'Holy Calamity' is an example of quality deejaying, with DJ Shadow and DJ Quest cutting up a load of samples with a cool beat going in the background. 'Metaphysical' with Miho Hatori and Mike D is another example of this, with Mike D talking over repeated samples. This is not your average album.
The actual concept of the Handsome Boy Modeling School is also unlike just about anything in hip-hop. As the track eerily orchestral 'Look At This Face' tells you, the Handsome Boy Modeling School is for those who think they are "a rough diamond that just needs a little polishing." There's a thin story thread going through the album, as evidenced on 'Modeling Sucks' where the unnamed protagonist claims "I am a male model, not a male prostitute!" While it doesn't have the strong story of Paul's 'Prince Among Thieves' from earlier this year, it still makes the album slightly more entertaining.
All in all though, this album shows that Paul and Automator are so skilled at making hip-hop records that they can take a guy like Sean Lennon and make him sound completely in place on a hip-hop album. To be fair though, I'll leave the final words of this review to Father Guido, a Handsome Boys graduate: "Handsome Boy Modeling School is the best $60 you ever spend. If it wasn't for Prince Paul and Automator, I would not be the model I am today and I would not have the confidence to go to the Handsome Boy Modeling School. Move yourself up in the world, go to Handsome Boy Modeling School, $60, you won't be sorry for long."