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Members include producers and emcees Dan the Automator (born Dan Nakamura in San Francisco, CA); Prince Paul (born Paul Huston on April 2, 1967). Addresses: Record company--Atlantic/Elektra, 75 Rockefeller Pl., 17th Fl. New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.atlanticrecords/com/handsomeboymodelingschool. Website--Handsome Boy Modeling School Official Website: http://www.handsomeboymodelingschool.com.
In the world of hip-hop, collaborations are a dime a dozen. When it comes to super producers Prince Paul and Dan "the Automator" Nakamura's project Handsome Boy Modeling School, however, their collaboration, as well as the numerous outside collaborations featured on their two full length releases, is anything but expected. Whether tackling straight hip-hop, soul, R&B, or rock, Handsome Boy Modeling School approaches music with the keen ears of two genre-defying producers collectively responsible for helming albums by acts like De La Soul, Gorillaz, Kool Keith, Primal Scream, and 3rd Bass. Add the fact that they took their name from an episode of the short-lived Chris Elliott sitcom Get a Life, their pertinence for wearing fake mustaches, pseudonyms like Nathanial Merriweather and Chest Rockwell, and guests that range from indie-rockers like Cat Power and the Mars Volta to underground hip-hoppers like Del tha Funky Homosapien, and their idea of living "handsome" becomes fully realized.
"Prince" Paul was born Paul Huston on April 2, 1967. Enchanted by the street oriented sounds of funk, R&B, and the emerging genre known as "rap," Paul took to the newfound art of scratching records, and began DJing for the Brooklyn-based group Stetsasonic in 1981. According to an article in the Orange County Register, Stetsasonic claimed they were the, "first fully live hip-hop band--not just two MCs and a DJ but a team of rhymers backed by keyboards, drums and turntables--the group was not only a precursor to sprawling collectives like Wu-Tang Clan, but it was one of the few outfits of the day that could deftly balance commentary with coolness." The group released three albums: 1986's On Fire, 1988's In Full Gear, and 1991's Blood, Sweat & No Tears. All were released on fledgling hip-hop label Tommy Boy. While still a member of Stetsasonic, Prince Paul was given the opportunity to produce De La Soul's influential breakthrough 3 Feet High and Rising, which featured, as the St. Petersburg Times pointed out, "Paul's quirky style and sensibilities--sampling Steely Dan and Sesame Street, crafting comedy sketches between tunes--raised the level in rap production." Soon, Prince Paul became known for his production style, as he manned the boards for prominent acts like MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, 3rd Bass, and even Fine Young Cannibals throughout the 1980s.
In 1994, Prince Paul formed the comedy/horror rap group Gravediggaz, alongside Wu Tang Clan's the RZA, Poetic, and Frukwan. Adopting pseudonyms, a trend that would later show up with Handsome Boy Modeling School, Paul (known as "the Undertaker" for the project) and the group released Six Feet Deep in 1994. After another record in 1997 called The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel, Paul left the group to pursue more production and solo work. The later part of the 1990s saw Paul collaborate with other producers, including Dan the Automator for his solo album's Psychoanalysis: What is It? (released in 1997) and A Prince Among Thieves (released in 1999).
Dan Nakamura was born in San Francisco and was procured as a classically trained violinist at a young age. Soon, though, bands like Kraftwerk and old-school hip-hop groups began to take up most of Nakamura's time. He began DJing around San Francisco in his teens and 20s. He soon met underground rapper Kool Keith and collaborated with him on 1995's Dr. Octagon project. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "the album became a critical sensation and introduced Nakamura's signature production style of dense, muscled beats and elaborately layered instrumentation incorporating everything from old-school hip-hop to classical compositions." Through the 1990s and into the year 2000, Nakamura performed production work for the likes of Primal Scream, Cornershop, the Eels, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Deltron 3030. He also released a few solo recordings, including the A Better Tomorrow EP in 1996, and contributed to the high profile Gorillaz project with Blur's Damon Albarn in 2002.
The initial collaboration between Dan the Automator and Prince Paul on Paul's first solo release brought the two together in 1999 to form Handsome Boy Modeling School. Viewed as the ultimate combination of both producers styles, Handsome Boy Modeling School's releases are chock full of comedy sketches, guest appearances and genre-crossing, from rap to rock to classical. The first release, So ... How's Your Girl?, was released in 1999 by Tommy Boy Records. Taking full advantage of the group's mantra of living handsomely, Nathanial Merriweather (Dan the Automator) and Chest Rockwell (Prince Paul) donned leisure suits, smoked cigars and sipped martinis on the album cover. The album itself features a bevy of collaborations, including Mike D. of the Beastie Boys, producer Money Mark, rapper Del tha Funky Homosapien, and Spain's Josh Hayden.
NME.com said So ... How's Your Girl, "harbours a wit and dexterity that not only represents the usual cliquey extended family, but also manages to transcend them. And, bizarrely for what's ostensibly hip-hop, the exigencies of the male ego are ridiculed far more than they're exaggerated. More bozo than braggadocio: really, these guys are beautiful." Citypages.com also gave the album praise saying, "The Sixties-rock organ-grind of 'Rock n' Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This)' is a clever enough answer to the separatism of Mos Def's racially charged 'Rock N Roll,' and the duo calls on a multiracial cast of both rock and rap weirdos."
After a few years away from the project, which saw the Automator collaborating with Faith No More's Mike Patton and the release of the Gorillaz album (among other projects and collaborations), the duo returned in 2004 with White People for Atlantic/Elektra. Featuring collaborations with Franz Ferdinand's Alex Karpranos, members of Linkin Park, members of the Mars Volta, Del tha Funky Homosapien, Saturday Night Live's Tim Meadows, and comedian Father Guido Sarducci (amongst many others), the album was called "a winner" by the Denver Post, prompting them to claim that the "CD showcases great humor, engaging production, and relevant songwriting."
by Ryan Allen
Handsome Boy Modeling School's Career
Group formed, 1999; released So ... How's Your Girl? on Tommy Boy, 1999; released White People on Elektra, 2004.
- Denver Post, November 28, 2004.
- Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA), July 6, 2001.
- San Francisco Chronicle, November 20, 2001.
- St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL), June 4, 2003.
- "Handsome Boy Modeling School," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 17, 2005).
- "Reviews," NME, http://www.nme.com/reviews/3110.htm (March 17, 2005).
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