Handsome Boy Modeling School
"White People" (Atlantic/Elektra)
"Handsome Boy Modeling School" is the brainchild of Nathaniel Merriweather and Chest Rockwell, the alter-egos of noted producers Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Prince Paul, respectively. The faux-suave duo's second album plays off hip-hop cliches -- tons of guest stars, silly between-song skits -- while examining just how long hip-hop culture's reach has grown.
The playful, impressive guest list includes Mike "Mr. Bungle" Patton, turntablist pioneer Grand Wizard Theodore, David Lynch chanteuse Julee Cruise, British jazz newbie Jamie Cullum and many others. (What, no Queens of the Stone Age?)
The pair comes up with seemingly endless ways to mix hip-hop with rock, blues, folk, R&B, etc. The single "The World's Gone Mad," with Barrington Levy, Del tha Funky Homosapien and Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, fetchingly fuses languid reggae with urgent, socially conscious vocals. Other standouts include the heavy rap/funk of "A Day in the Life," featuring members of Mars Volta and the Wu-Tang Clan, and the lounge-soul tune "I've Been Thinking," with Cat Power getting sultry, like a huskier Sade.