Review: ‘Handsome Boy Modeling School’

What happens when a couple of revered underground hip-hop producers get their favorite rappers and musicians to record songs with them for a silly concept record?

What happens when a couple of revered underground hip-hop producers get their favorite rappers and musicians to record songs with them for a silly concept record? If the producers in question are Dan “the Automator” Nakamura and Prince Paul, and the “group” is Handsome Boy Modeling School, the answer is one backpacker classic (1999’s Tommy Boy release “So … How’s Your Girl”) and one wildly eclectic album (last year’s Elektra disc “White People”). So what happens when that duo decides to tour behind their records? Two words: unmitigated disaster.

Forget Prince Paul’s rambling, show-ending 20-minute interview with what was left of the audience, where he asked everything from what albums people were listening to (Trick Daddy, apparently, is not cool with the hip-hop heads, while MF Doom gets a big thumbs up) to who could host an after-party (the answer, which did not please him: lots of dudes).

Forget the duo bringing out “Handsome Boy graduate” Manfred Winters, actually rapper Mr. Dead decked out in a suit and moustache, who picked people out of the audience for “makeovers,” stuffing one young woman’s bra with tissue and smearing another one’s mouth with honey. Forget the playback of album tracks — including the standout “Breakdown,” which features surfer dude Jack Johnson — here supplemented by Gorillaz-type videos instead of musicians, with Paul and Nakamura looking bored at the back of the stage. Forget, even, guest rapper Casual — from the usually distinctive Hieroglyphics crew — who mumbled his way through two somnambulistic songs before shuffling offstage.

Forget everything, in fact, other than Black Sheep rapper Dres, who guested with the group by singing his classic “The Choice Is Yours.” A natural performer with great flow, he’s charismatic and naturally funny — everything that, at least live, Handsome Boy Modeling School is not.

Canadian rapper K-os fared much better during his opening set, using a full backing band to accentuate N.E.R.D.-ish songs from his second album, “Joyful Rebellion” (Astralwerks).

Handsome Boy Modeling School

House of Blues; 2,000 capacity; $20

Production

Presented inhouse. Reviewed March 28, 2005.

Cast

Band: Dan "the Automator" Nakamura, Prince Paul, Brandon Arnovick, Jim Greer, Latrice Barnett.
Guests: Casual, Dres, Josh Haden, Mr. Dead.
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