It says something encouraging about hip hop that the genre has, after years of regression, finally caught up with eccentric studio genius Prince Paul. After years of frustration, Paul has produced three albums in 1999 alone: the ambitious A Prince Among Thieves, Chris Rock's new album, and this thoroughly winning collaboration with Dan "The Automator" Nakamura. As the producer of De La Soul's groundbreaking 3 Feet High And Rising and De La Soul Is Dead, Paul helped establish the producer-as-superstar paradigm that has reached its logical conclusion in bookish techno superstars like Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers. It's appropriate, then, that Paul and former Kool Keith collaborator Nakamura's latest project finds them flexing their production muscles and reveling in their artistic freedom. Seamlessly connecting the dots that separate hip hop, trip-hop, and Big Beat, So… How's Your Girl? is full of the loopy samples, twisted humor, and kitchen-sink eclecticism that have become Paul's trademarks. With guests ranging from Sean Lennon to Biz Markie to Father Guido Sarducci, the album takes a genre-bending but cohesive tour into the warped minds of its creators. Its best tracks are the surprisingly seductive Brand Nubian collaboration "Once Again (Here To Kick It For You)" and "The Projects (Pjays)" featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Trugoy of De La Soul. Both stick to straight-up hip hop, but even when So… How's Your Girl? explores foreign territory, the duo's work remains satisfying. Three songs revolving around the episode of the brilliant Chris Elliott sitcom Get A Life that gave the duo its name is probably a bit much, but with this dynamite album, Handsome Boy Modeling School has earned its right to a few moments of self-indulgence.

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