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Cover Art Handsome Boy Modeling School
So... How's Your Girl?
[Tommy Boy]
Rating: 5.0

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 inventing.

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.

-Ryan Schreiber



10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

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