The Handsome Boy Modeling School has returned to educate us all. The main instructors, Chest Rockwell and Nathaniel Merriweather thrilled us all with their debut album “So… How’s Your Girl” on Tommy Boy Records. The album was a delicious assortment of lessons (in song) by artists like Del, Mike D of The Beastie Boys, J-Live, Sean Lennon, El-P, and more. The much-respected Prince Paul and Dan The Automator produced every song. For those readers who have been living in a cave the last 10 years, Prince Paul is known for his work with De La Soul, Stetsasonic, and Da Gravediggaz while Dan The Automator is known for his stellar production for Dr. Octagon, Deltron 3030, and others. Both producers have released very creative critically acclaimed solo albums too. At the end of 2004, The Handsome Boy Modeling School begins their instruction once again on “White People” (released on Electra Records). “White People” is remarkably similar to “So… How’s Your Girl?” without being a carbon copy. While previous guests like De La Soul, El-P, and Del The Funky Homosapian returned, there are many new students in this class. Dres from Black Sheep, Casual, Pharrell Williams (Neptunes), Rza, A.G., Barrington Levy, and others enroll in the classes. Even John Oates (of Hall & Oates) drops by for a little instruction. The cool and confident attitude is a staple aspect of Handsome Boy Modeling School and the LP is both satisfying and genre bending. “White People” is a required course in your higher education of being the handsome and confident listener.
Every Handsome Boy Modeling School album basically has 3 types of tracks. The hip-hop tracks have legendary emcees and tight beats. The soulful tracks have sultry vocals and melancholy sexy rhythms. Finally, a comedian leads the humorous skits. This time, Tim Meadows of Saturday Night Live endorses the educational value of the institution. Many tracks tend to bring different and unlikely artists together to create something special. On “White People”, the diversity of the 3 tracks all work together to create a unique, interesting and entertaining experience.
Hip-hop is the backbone element to “White People” and the other HBMS release. The hip-hop tracks always have a surprise embedded in them whether it is in the collaboration or just the appearance of the emcee. “The World’s Gone Mad” is an excellent track that has the unique flow of Del The Funky Homosapian and the reggae vocals of Barrington Levy. “First…And Then” has an electric and energetic performance of Dres from Black Sheep. The flow and delivery of his verses are reminiscent of the energy of classic tracks like “The Choice Is Yours”. After years out of the spotlight, Dres truly rocks the mic with a renewed energy. “A Day In The Life” is a unique and brilliant collaboration which features Rza (from Wu-Tang Clan) and A.G. (from D.I.T.C) mixed with the sung vocals of Mars Volta. The educational and timeless “Rock And Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This) Part 2” has a laundry list of guests including Rahzel, Lord Finesse, Jazzy Jay, Grand Wizard Theodore, and more. While the track starts with old-school DJ legends talking about how hip-hop changed the world and modern culture, the song eventually changes into a hardcore hip-hop track with rhymes by Lord Finesse. The rock and roll aspect is not forgotten as the song changes again to high-energy rock track. Only Handsome Boy Modeling School can pull something like this off with grace and ease. Other wonderful tracks include “If It Wasn’t For You” with De La Soul and Starchild Excalibur, “The Hours” featuring El-P, and “It’s Like That” featuring Casual.
The soul tracks have a hip-hop atmosphere due to the production. The R&B tracks create a cool and sexy atmosphere while sounding very unique and nowhere near the watered down R&B played on the radio. The most surprising R&B accomplishment is “Greatest Mistake” featuring John Oates and Jamie Cullum. The bluesy feel of the production along with the brokenhearted vocals make this song wonderful. Julee Cruise and Pharrell Williams (of Neptunes) sing on the political “Class System”. Pharrell Sings, "...They're all trapped in the system / Unbeknownst to them they're trapped with no glass..." At first, “Class System” sounds like a typical Pharrell song, but it is lyrically strong and socially aware. The sinister yet emotionally strong singing of Cat Power on “I’ve Been Thinking” gives the album a dark, soulful edge. She sings, "...Be my boy, be my boy / Diamonds, candy pills / One million dollar bills / You can try / But you can't buy me..." The passion and attitude in her voice is both black as night and sensual as a romantic affair. “Breakdown” featuring Jack Johnson on vocals is an easy-going track that is too good to be considered filler but not incredibly special either.
Prince Paul and Dan The Automator have a superb chemistry and an eclectic musical taste. The music of Handsome Boy Modeling School just sounds cool. “So… How’s Your Girl” was an exceptional album and “White People” tries to duplicate the same vibe and overall sound. The results are pleasing but the school is not breaking new ground like they did on the debut. The songs on “So…How’s Your Girl” had a precious quality while some of the songs on “White People” sound somewhat formulaic since they try to make a newer version of their last LP. The beauty of The Handsome Boy Modeling School is that the music, both sly and unique, has substance. Their debut album, “So… How’s Your Girl?” shocked and enlightened people because the music went beyond people’s expectations. Now that fans know what to expect, “White People” satisfies the fans but does not shock or amaze. “White People” is filled with enjoyable collaborations, wonderful production, and a myriad of themes. In a world of watered-down hip-hop and R&B, The Handsome Boy Modeling School are teaching music lovers to be eccentric, soulful, and to look good.