These days, it's passe for a rap act to refer to its sound and philosophy as "keepin' it real." From the moment that abominable phrase was conceived, it had already played itself out, making the whole concept of truth in hip-hop seem somehow untruthful.
But not all ghetto-minded rappers follow that cliched credo to the letter. Some actually let the product speak for itself. Take the Houston rap quartet Fakkulty, for example. Though the press release for Fakkulty's latest CD, Southern Hostility, has the gall to call them reality rappers, Vashion "Lil' V" Williams, Richard "Malek" Aleem, Walter "Water Boy" Young and Johntae "Kook" Johnson have more to offer than just hard-scrabble slogans. Their tense-but-steady angle recalls N.W.A. in its manic flow and seismic sound, yet the group boasts a distinguishable, bass-pumping ease that can only come from our part of the Gulf Coast. And you'll find that despite their street stigma, Fakkulty don't go out of their way to shove the harsh details down your throat. They let truth trickle out in its own sweet time. That way, reality can take care of itself.
-- Craig D. Lindsey
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Fakkulty joins the 5th Ward Boyz, Street Military, Pharaoh and others for Rap Explosion on Thursday, June 19, at the International Ballroom, 14035 South Main. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. For info, call 355-2940.
Phil Collins Big Band -- All but lost amid his stints as the moon-faced mugger in Genesis and a pabulum-producing solo artist is the fact that Phil Collins is actually a damn good drummer. For this big-band project, Collins zips it up, trades the spotlight for a stool, and leads a 20-piece orchestra through an assortment of jazz standards and instrumental arrangements of his Top 40 repertoire. Let's just hope Don Henley doesn't get any ideas. At 8 p.m. Thursday, June 18, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands. Tickets $10$40. 629-3700. (Bob Ruggiero)
Mike Ireland and the Holler -- Kansas City's Mike Ireland and the Holler don't just chronicle heartache; they explore the reasons for failed and unrequited love. Murder, betrayal, liquor and stupidity all fit somewhere into their alt-countrified tales of woe. What saves them from being schmaltzy and derivative, though, is their obvious reverence for C&W's emotional foundation -- a la George Jones and Merle Haggard, not Uncle Tupelo. And while Ireland may turn up the volume a notch, live, the Holler is still more about bawling than yipping it up. Still, if you're gonna feel sorry for yourself, you might as well have company. Opens for Cory Morrow on Friday, June 19, at Blanco's Bar and Grill, 3406 West Alabama. Doors 8 p.m. Tickets $5. 439-0072 (David Simutis)
Gravity Kills -- Gravity Kills, with its meat-grinder guitars, dense keyboards and relentless techno-beats, seemed an unlikely opening act for the Sex Pistols' 1996 reunion tour. But what seemed like a mismatch was anything but: As it happened, the St. Louis band's metallic wall of sound and mercurial stage presence were just right for the occasion. On-stage, Jeff Scheel's manic, melodic vocals struggle admirably to keep up with the bleakness of music that threatens to careen out of control. On the brand-new Perversion, the band's aggression remains barely tempered by infectious grooves and pop hooks. Like only a few industrial/metal hybrids, Gravity Kills prove that machines can bleed, too. On Sunday, June 21, at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. Doors 8 p.m. Tickets $12. Junkie XL opens. (