Handsome Boy Modeling School
So... How's Your Girl?
Handsome Boy Modeling School is Dr. Octagon's Dan the Automator and De La Soul's
Prince Paul. Does this excite you? It seems to excite people for some reason.
People tend to get even more worked up when they hear that the record is littered
with guest appearances by Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori, Mike D, DJ Shadow, De La Soul,
Sean Lennon, Money Mark, Spain, Tarnation, Ninja Tune DJ Kid Koala, Atari Teenage Riot
and Father Guido Sarducci (to name just a few). The final point of sale is-- and are
you ready for this?-- the project is named after, and samples, episodes of the long
since canceled Chris Elliott show "Get a Life."
Too bad, then, that So... How's Your Girl basically amounts to a 1970s TV
variety show. Ignoring the cliched introduction, the record kicks off with a heavy,
slow groovin' hip-hop beat while old rap samples cut in. If you're one of the few
people on Earth that can still stomach standardized call- and- response in hip-hop,
this song's for you. It features such lyrical prose as, "Ladies and Gentlemen!,"
"Check it out'chy'all," "Back by popular demand," and the track's namesake, "Rock
n' roll could never ever hip-hop like this!" All this magic's set over that same
grating hip-hop beat, two chords played by a guitar and organ, a Bomb Squad- ripped
siren, and a clumsily out- of- place breakdown. It ends with a muffled recording
of a random b-boy yelling, "Throw on somethin' funky!" Guys, who can't do
that? I believe it was a wise man who once said, "Fuckin' try!"
Yeah, everything you've heard a million times is here: the occasional James Brown
vocal freakout, pianos playing in minor keys, crackling jazz records being scratched
on, orchestra hits, between- song skits, b-horror samples, and a song about the
projects. Now, maybe it's me, but it seems like if anyone in "underground" hip-hop
gave a shit, this might sound half as good as anything Cash Money's releasing. Look
at B.G., Lil' Wayne, Hot Boys and Juvenile. Dude, it will be a cold day in hell
when a real rapper builds a song around Van McCoy's "Sweet Bitter Love."
But despite its general lack of ingenuity, How's Your Girl still manages to
pull off a couple of good tracks. "The Truth" is a soulful Holiday- influenced
number featuring, of all people, Roison from Moloko (of Do You Like My Tight
Sweater? fame) and J-Live. The urban soul of "Sunshine" sounds straight out
of 1973 with its muted guitar and warm bass. (Who knew a song featuring Sean
Lennon, Money Mark, Father Guido Sarducci, Josh Hayden of Spain and Paula Frazer
of Tarnation would be the album's highlight?) And finally, Kid Koala makes his
entry with the climactic warehouse scene music of "The Runaway Song."
Of course, I can't avoid the fact that, if this is the first "underground" (read:
mainstream) hip-hop record you've heard since Digital Underground's Sex Packets,
it might seem almost ground- breaking. But after hearing really amazing shit like
A Tribe Called Quest, NWA and Public Enemy, the Modeling School seems tame and uninspired.
And as incredible as the masters of turntablism are-- the Skratch Piklz, Mixmaster Mike,
DJ Disk, Cut Chemist, etc.-- it's getting pretty old. When even bands like Limp Bizkit
have begun recycling your stereotypes, you can't just stagnate-- you have to keep
I won't criticize people for liking the Handsome Boy Modeling School. These guys
aren't bad at what they do, it's just been done a hundred times before. I mean, the
only difference between How's Your Girl and Rob Swift's Ablist is that
Swift's record came out about a year earlier. It's all good enough, but how many times,
really, do you need to hear the term "rock the mic" in an hour? Not this many.