On the upcoming debut from the Handsome Boy Modeling School, So ... How's Your Girl?, producer Prince Paul uses a cast that includes Beastie Boys rapper Mike D and Atari Teenage Riot techno-rocker Alec Empire to fashion another of his trademark narrative-driven hip-hop albums.
The 16-song disc, due Oct. 19, is a collaboration between the former De La Soul producer and Dan "The Automator" Nakamura (Dr. Octagon). The material on it ranges from comic interludes featuring Father Guido Sarducci (born Don Novello) to turntable displays by the likes of DJ Shadow (born Josh Davis) and DJ Quest.
"We basically wanted to do an album that had some interesting combinations on it and was cutting-edge," Nakamura said. Nakamura, of San Francisco, and New Yorker Prince Paul (born Paul Huston) created the beats and music in their respective studios.
"Metaphysical," a spacey-funk number, mixes the spoken vocals of Miho Hatori of pop group Cibo Matto with the deadpan rapping of Mike D (born Michael Diamond), while the piano-driven, jazzy "The Truth" crosses the trip-hop crooning of Roisin Murphy, from UK electro-pop duo Moloko, with the rapping of J-Live.
More jarring is an aggressive collaboration between Empire and rapper El-P of New York group Company Flow. With Empire laying down a metronomelike blown-speaker beat and El-P rapping breathlessly over crackling electronic noise, "Megaton B-Boy 2000" is a perfect example of what the two producers were trying to achieve on the album, according to El-P.
"The whole key is having a bunch of talented people at the mercy of two insane ones," El-P, who would not give his real name, said. "They've both achieved a level of experience and musicality that's beyond hip-hop."
Prince Paul and Nakamura will perform select dates in support of the album with an as-yet-unannounced backing band, according to Tommy Boy publicist Hillary Siskind. The pair are also expected to be joined by some of the album's guests for a show during the CMJ MusicFest in New York next month.
One of the most star-studded tracks is "Sunshine," a soulful R&B ballad featuring a duet between Paula Frazier of the rock band Tarnation and Mark Hayden, singer of jazz-pop group Spain. Also featured on that song is singer/songwriter Sean Lennon, a spoken-word bit by Sarducci, and Beastie Boys keyboardist and solo artist Money Mark Nishita.
The album is "just a bunch of people doing things," Nakamura said. "Me and Paul produced the whole thing, so it has our flavor, with a whole series of between-song skits about the [fictional] modeling school." Nakamura is credited as Nathaniel Merriweather on the album, with Prince Paul adopting the pseudonym Chest Rockwell.
A pair of underground rappers stake their claim on the album as well New York MC Sensational raps on the spare hip-hop track "Torch," while Encore lays down a sinister vocal on the dark funk-rap song "Waterworld."
The album also features rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien on two songs, "Magnetizing" and "The P.J.'s" (featuring Trugoy of De La Soul). Rappers Grand Puba and Sadat X of Brand Nubian appear on "Once Again," while "The Runaway Song" spotlights DJ Kid Koala.
Prince Paul and Nakamura take the spotlight on the cut-and-paste hip-hop collages "Rock & Roll" and "Look at His Face." Rapper Biz Markie makes a cameo via a phone conversation with Prince Paul on the skit "The Biz."
Earlier this year, the Grammy-winning Prince Paul an original member of the pioneering 1980s New York rap crew Stetsasonic released a 35-track solo CD, Prince Among Thieves, that also featured a wealth of guests. That album, which includes "Mr. Large"
(RealAudio excerpt), is built on a narrative originally intended as a film script. A cautionary tale about the music business, it has cameos from such rappers as Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, Everlast and the Wu Tang-Clan's RZA.