They Wear It Well 

Latest line from Handsome Boy Modeling School as chic as ever

Latest line from Handsome Boy Modeling School as chic as ever

Chest Rockwell and Nathaniel Merriweather have done it again, bringing glam and grit to music's newest line, showing the world that enough sexiness and studio time can have all styles of music playing nice together. When Father Guido Sarducci and Ladies Man Leon Phelps stake out grooves on the same record as Cat Power and Lord Finesse, it's impossible not to feel giddy about such promiscuous genre pollination. What in other hands might be a monument to market-tested collaborations here feels like a grandly diverse block party happening in a recording studio. This is what Rockwell and Merriweather (better known as Prince Paul and Dan the Automator) do best in their Handsome Boy Modeling School guise, and White People (Atlantic), their new album, takes the party worldwide.

At the heart of what Prince Paul and Automator do is creative beatsmithing, gleaning diverse material for samples and inspiration (the Handsome Boy concept springs from an episode of the short-lived Chris Elliott sitcom Get a Life) and bringing the best and brightest together to create something fun. The first Handsome Boy album, 1999's ...So How's Your Girl?, remains one of the finest hip-hop albums ever, so any follow-up was going to have to either eclipse Girl? or break off and do something different. It isn't detrimental that Paul and Automator chose the latter, but those looking for a traditional hip-hop album will be annoyed by the repeated emphasis on rock vocalists and musical styles. Anyone, however, who doesn't feel the rapture of "If It Wasn't for You" with De La Soul, though, needs help.

"Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip-Hop Like This) Part II" is the summation of the Handsome Boy aesthetic. Deploying Grand Wizard Theodore and DJ QBert and a couple of the guys from Linkin Park, they get to the heart of the symbiosis between rock and hip-hop and how this particular relationship has been up and running for as long as the drive to rap has existed. What's more, by making even Vivaldi bump to a suitably amped beat, Paul and Automator do more to express the commonality of music in all its forms than even the best-intentioned of band teachers.

—Jason Shawhan


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