Saturday, February 22
Toby McKeehan, aka TobyMac, is something of a maverick in the contemporary Christian music (CCM) world. In a typically play-it-safe culture that often replicates (Christianizes?) what is popular in “secular” music, TobyMac has spent the past 25 years—first as a member of Christian rap group dc Talk and now as a solo artist—going against the grain. He has embraced rock, hip-hop, rap, pop, funk, and R&B, and his most recent album, 2012’s Eye on It—which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart—features a heavy dose of dance music.
For TobyMac, such a broad musical palette is completely natural. “[I grew] up listening to Run DMC, Bob Marley, The Police, Hall & Oates,” McKeehan says. “I’ve never felt like any of it was out of bounds. I’ve always felt like I’ve had a passport into all these styles.”
Utilizing this melting pot of sounds has led to mainstream success that most artists, Christian or otherwise, would envy. The Grammy and 18-time Dove award (CCM’s version of the Grammys) winner and co-founder of Gotee Records (which has represented the likes of Relient K, Jennifer Knapp, and Family Force 5) has had music featured in action films, video games, and in ads for the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, NASCAR, and MLB, among others. Some in the CCM world object to his music’s appearance in so-called “secular” media, but the artist sees such placements as opportunity.
“I want my music to go everywhere it can,” says McKeehan, even if it’s a—gasp—R-rated movie. “I believe in what’s in my songs, so I want it to be there.” Marching to the beat of his own drum as he does, it comes as no surprise that one trend in CCM—recording classic worship songs, as artists like Newsboys and Michael W. Smith have done—holds no interest for him.
“I think I define worship more loosely than most do,” he says. “I don’t think it has to be U2/Coldplay chords and a lyric that sounds like it came from the Psalms. Worship is broader than that.” With Matthew West, Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Matt Maher. KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., 684-7200, keyarena.com. 7 p.m. $38 and up. All ages.