From 1989 to 1998 dc Talk ruled the contemporary Christian music roost. During that time the pioneering hip-hop/rock trio pumped out five albums that sold a massive 8 million units. Though the group went on indefinite hiatus in 2000 (and a reunion still looks unlikely), rapper/singer tobyMac barely missed a beat. His three subsequent solo releases have moved another 2 million units.
Perhaps that’s because tobyMac’s hybrid style—which the 45-year-old singer describes as a “big pot of gumbo … what I call hip-rock, funk and soul”—bears more than a little resemblance to his former band’s.
The Black Eyed Peas-style title track addresses the reality that faith ebbs and flows but acknowledges that God’s power enables us to start over (“Being driven by a source overflowin’ our souls tonight/ … It changes everything”). Likewise, the possibility of a second chance after a fall is the theme of “Get Back Up.” “Captured” tenderly expresses a sense of abandoning oneself to God’s loving care (“I will rest at Your feet/And I’ll only lift my voice/When You want me to sing/It’s the beauty of Your covering that’s stealing my heart”). “Changed Forever” offers a rockin’ testimony of God’s transforming power (“Just a glimpse of Your face/And my whole world changed”). “Break Open the Sky” longs for Jesus’ return (“We wanna see Your face/So tear the roof off this place/Jesus, break open the sky/ … Come, Jesus, come”).
The playful “Funky Jesus Music” celebrates diverse expressions of worship, recognizes the importance of prayer and winks lyrically at dc Talk’s biggest hit (“Give me that funky Jesus music/ … Look at them freaks/ … Passion won’t subside”). Prayer is also the focus of “City on Our Knees.” And “Showstopper” practically explodes with hope (“Hope just broke right through the door/ … We’re ’bout to light the night with that flare”).
Changing up the tone a bit and evoking historic Keith Green sentiments, “Hey Devil” tells the tempter where to go (“Hey devil, go on/get your junk out of here”). But this track also accurately alludes to his power to ensnare unsuspecting victims (“You’re a beauty and a beast/You’re the pressure never cease/And they say you never sleep”).
“Start Somewhere” models humility as a man takes initiative and responsibility for resolving conflict with his wife (“If I could turn my words around/You wouldn’t hear a sound/But here I am, and there you are/The space between us is not so far/I’m reaching out my hand in love/Before the fading sun/Forgive me for what I’ve done”).
I’m not sure I’ve ever sampled a sonic stew with as many different ingredients as tobyMac’s Tonight. You want rock. It’s here. Rap? Yup. R&B? There’s a bit o’ that. Reggae? Check. And it’s all liberally flavored with the salt of the gospel. On paper, it doesn’t look like a recipe that would work very well. But tobyMac has spent almost two decades perfecting his musical morsels. And what he serves up here is satisfying sonic—as well as spiritual—nourishment.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.