Handsome Boy Modeling School - White People
Like UNKLE's Psyence Fiction, White People is a hip-hop/ sample based record that may well find favour with those who wouldn't normally listen to such music. At the core of Handsome Boy Modeling School are Dan the Automator (best known for his involvement with Gorillaz) and Prince Paul (producer of De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising); orbitting their strange little planet is an impressive array of guests. The word here is 'varied', as the line-up ranges from Julee Cruise to the N.E.R.D.-endorsed Jamie Cullum to Faith No More's Mike Patton.
Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) is perhaps this record's answer to Paranoid Android (or Bohemian Rhapsody, depending on your generation). It's something of a meandering mini-epic, combining rappers, members of Linkin Park, The Four Seasons (as in Vivaldi's classical piece) and the "funk soul brother" sample heard on Fatboy Slim's The Rockafeller Skank.
A virtual retread of Clint Eastwood, The World's Gone Mad is a more relaxed, dubby affair, with Del the Funky Homosapien again on rapping duties and Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos singing. If released as a single right now, it would surely bring HBMS the same recognition as Gorillaz. Listening to White People, it's hard not to conclude this project is indeed a better use of Dan the Automator's talents.
Other stand out tracks include If It Wasn't For You - with De La Soul featured, an expectedly blissful slice of hip-hop -, and I've Been Thinking, gorgeous late-night soul, Cat Power's vocals bringing to mind Sade.
The music is often interrupted by generally amusing comedy skits (on such subjects as Blind Date). So if HBMS's intent is to bring some fun back into hip-hop, they've suceeded. Maybe White People is a couple of tracks too long, but that's a small gripe. This is one of the most inventive albums of the year, and quite possibly one of the best to boot.