Today's Praise: tobyMac's new CD puts a musical spin on diversity
When tobyMac envisions the Bible’s shining city on a hill, he sees a diverse place.
It’s a place without barriers dividing what he calls “God’s artistic handiwork.” So, it seems natural for him to name a CD “Welcome to Diverse City.”
“It’s been something that’s been important to me all my life,” said Toby McKeehan, whose new disc was nominated for a Grammy earlier this month.
“Diversity, to me, is in everything I do. From my record label, Gotee Records, to my album and my family,” said McKeehan, who has adopted biracial twins. “I want to live that way and not just proclaim it.”
McKeehan grew up near Washington, D.C., and his childhood heroes had all different shades of skin. He started his career with the multiracial band dc talk, which made its own plea for racial harmony with the song “Colored People.” However, “I began traveling all around the United States and not everyone has had the privilege of being raised in a place that’s so diverse … and I wanted to welcome everyone to diversity. …
“We will never be a truly shining city on the hill until we are diverse.”
McKeehan’s new disc comments on the issue in the title track and other songs, but true to its name it’s a very diverse package. Its themes range from praise, to relationships to the pressure of everyday life. Stylistically, it flows from hip-hop to funk to rock and back. Short transition tracks effectively bind the main songs together to form a cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable package.
It’s a mix that has grabbed a lot of fans since its October release. The disc has been nominated for a Grammy for the year’s best rock gospel album and the single “Gone” is planted atop the Christian radio charts.
The disc opens with “Hey Now,” a hip-hop proclamation that tobyMac’s back — two years after his first solo effort, the acclaimed “Momentum.” The disc bounds into hard rock with “Slam,” which asserts the message of Jesus is for everyone no matter their color or their sins. And the song “Diverse City” slides into a funk beat as it as it builds its case for human harmony.
The disc does an excellent job of translating the big picture into a personal view. “Atmosphere” encourages someone in tears and alone. The pop-oriented “Gone” — the disc’s first single and one of its best tracks — scolds a friend who’s been unfaithful to his girlfriend. “Stories” describes the personal accounts of people who’ve “been down to the bottom,” but remain certain that “God will see us through.” And McKeehan offers a glimpse of his personal struggle against getting sucked into too many activities in “Gotta Go.”
Although many of the topics are pretty heavy, much of the disc is quite light-hearted. “Gone,” “Gotta Go” and “TruDog” — a rap by his young son Truett — are downright fun.
“So many times you would consider music coming from a Christian person, Christian music, as really heavy … but I really wanted to put on some songs about a person walking through this world, a believer, having a good time,” McKeehan said.
The disc’s last song is a remix of “Atmosphere,” featuring the voices of dc talk bandmates Kevin Max and Michael Tate.
“I just sat there with this song messing with it … and, every time I sat there, I heard Michael and Kevin’s voices in it,” McKeehan said.
So, he called the pair and they agreed to participate. However, that doesn’t mean a reunion tour is imminent.
“dc talk is alive and well,” McKeehan said. “We’re climbing separate creative mountains right now. … For now, there’s a lot of life in this climb called solo.”
Finally, McKeehan wanted to pass along a message to the military community: “I would like to say thank you to all of the men and women serving our nation and sacrificing for our freedom. And may God bless them.”
On the Web: www.tobymac.com.
Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.