One notable thing about Handsome Boy Modeling School is the dearth of authoritative information on them. Their website seems to have been abandoned as you only get forbidden message when accessing http://www.handsomeboymodelingschool.com. Likewise, their Myspace page seems to be mocking you with its sparseness. The UK MTV site says “Unfortunately it looks as though they won’t be producing any more now that Prince Paul has left the group in 2006 over disputes with Dan.” This may explain then why the site has been taken down, or at least neglected.
The only biographical info to be found online seems to have been passed to every site from the same initial source. It is also very cursory and frankly unhelpful. The group consists of Prince Paul, most famous for being one third of De La Soul, and Dan (The Automator) Nakamura who is a producer best known for his work with Gorillaz and Dr. Octagon (Kool Keith). This seems to be the extent of useful information but it almost makes no difference. Sometimes a conceptual band is better when they don’t explain themselves. Although it is possible they did explain themselves at some point and it has since been scrubbed from the internet (I did check).
Having downloaded the album from Amazon, I have no liner notes to work with. Most of the online commentary focuses on all the guests that got roped into contributing. Personally I think the concept, nebulous as it is, is far more interesting. The cover, shown here:
seems to be mocking some of the trappings of snobby culture while the lyrics, especially of the first song, are calling out conspicuous consumer culture. This promo seems to bear this out without giving too many specifics away.
I wonder if there is also a dig in there somewhere at the dominant materialism of hip-hop culture as well. Prince Paul has always been unafraid to make music that ignores the conventions of hip-hop, especially by using humor. Dan the Automator seems to have a similar bent, judging from this and his involvement with Kool Keith. Why has hip-hop lost all of its silliness? In any case the ambiguity doesn’t really take away from anything in the least.
Despite the frustration you’d expect from not being able to get a hold of useful information on these guys, I actually find it pretty refreshing. A lack of preconceptions lets me just listen to the record and find what I like in it. For the record, I really don’t listen to lyrics much, nor do I really care much what they are singing about. That sounds insanely stupid for hip-hop but voices are just other instruments and I generally just like to keep them in that role sometimes. In this case, ignorance is bliss and I am sort of enjoying that.
Rating: Hovering just above 4 out of 5 at this point.