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Handsome Boy Modeling School

After a five-year hiatus, Handsome Boy Modeling School is back open for enrollment. With its second installment, superproducers Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Prince Paul push the concept album envelope further. A smattering of old-school legends (reggae crooner Barrington Levy, surrealist diva Julee Cruise, John Oates -- yes, that John Oates), pedigreed rockers (Mike Patton, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Cat Power, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, the Mars Volta), hip-hop heavyweights (RZA, Pharrell, De La Soul, Del tha Funky Homosapien, El P), and a dash of sketch comedy featuring Tim Meadows as a Handsome Boy graduate add up to one bold, if unlikely, recipe. Handsome Boy's strength is its ability to pair unlikely bedfellows, and Automator and Prince Paul reach Icarus-like heights of audacity with their Class of 2004. While White People suffers from the lack of a blockbuster Mike D/Miho Hatori or DJ Shadow/DJ Quest hookup (from 1999's So... How's Your Girl?), it does offer ample head-cocking and ear-perking from the knockout Cat Power, Del-Levy-Kapranos, De La Soul, RZA-Mars Volta, and John Oates tracks. White People ups Handsome Boy's ante, and though ultimate "handsomeness" may remain at large, fans of left-field hip-hop will dig every note. -- Kelly Shindler

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