First of all, can you believe it’s been five years since So How’s Your Girl? Whether White People is also destined for classic status or not, this second album from Handsome Boy Modeling School is the modern equivalent of that famous De La Soul LP, Three Feet High and Rising. The fact that Prince Paul makes up half the Handsonium Institute (along with Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura) helps to illustrate the point. The fact that De La Soul feature on the second track, the superb If It Wasn’t For You, further reinforces it.
But the similarity is more to do with the general attitude of the album. Whilst the musical styles are broad beyond belief, this is an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Spoken sections feature between many of tracks, much like the radio quiz inserted between tracks on that classic De La Soul record which came to define the ‘Daisy Age’. But in this case we follow the experiences of a graduate from the aforementioned institute. I must admit to not having been familiar with ‘Ladies’ Man’, a Tim Meadows’ character from Saturday Night Live, but through him we learn all about the key to being a successful handsome bachelor. We get a blind date section; hygiene tips, and get schooled generally in the art of how to be a complete man for the ladies.
So at the heart of White People is a comedy record. Personally, I’ve never had much time for comedy music, just because the delivery of a recorded joke doesn’t have the longevity of a well-delivered song. But it’s best to think of it as a light-hearted album, rather than one that’s trying to make you laugh out loud.
But whether the humourous inserts by Tim Meadows float your boat or not, what’s important is that the actual music on this album is mostly brilliant. Dan the Automator and Prince Paul have the largest role to play in this of course, as writers, mixers and producers, but it’s the sheer range of guest talent on offer that will get your cameo detectors overloading. We’ve already mentioned De La Soul, but add in Mike Patton from Faith No More, Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, and even Julee Cruise, and you start to get some idea of just how wide this album goes. But that’s not all. Make sure you put your hands over your mouth, nose and ears to hold you bewildered brain in, because you’ll also be hearing Del the Funkee Homosapien (Gorillaz), Barrington Levy, Kid Koala, Dres from Black Sheep, Rahzel, Qbert, and RZA. Oh yes, and Jamie Cullum, and Vivaldi. There’s more in fact, but it’s probably best to let you take all that in first.
In short, this is the funkiest, most captivating conglomeration of talent you’ve heard since, well, the last Handsonium album. Maybe we could do without the opening section of The Hours, a shouty, feedback-soaked onslaught voiced by Chino Moreno from the Deftones, but even that develops into an awesomely dark Hip-Hop number, and just about starts to make sense.
The mood of this dazzling album can perhaps be understood best from the title of one of the tracks. Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) says it all really. Even if you end up skipping the camp, wacky skits of the Ladies’ Man after a few listens, White People is an ear-blowing record by any other standard. Soulful, funky, intelligent, laid-back, intense; this really does have it all. So for all the men out there who want to hone their hygiene, or refine their etiquette when it comes to interacting with those lovely ladies, or even for the ladies themselves who want to fathom out their lesser halves, the Handsome Boy Modeling School is here to help.
Handsome Boy Modeling School
White People (2004)
Genre: Alternative Rap/Hip-Hop
Record Label: Atlantic