Interview With tobyMac
No Stopping Him....

tobyMac is all about breaking down barriers.

He’s been doing that for some time now as a member of dctalk, so it’s fitting that his first solo project be titled Momentum, since that theme certainly continues.

The album (from Forefront Records) is vibrant splash of hip hop fusion, and brings in guests that include Kirk Franklin plus several others that he has connected with over the past while. It’s a testament to Toby’s committment to stengthen the entire Christian music community, from CCM to Gospel and beyond.

tobyMacHe laid down his perspective for us, in this interview.

“Hip hop is all about community. Really it’s all about family, to bring people together into the ultimate family —God’s family. It’s the most important thing about music.”

“I try to write socially conscious songs that make people think. I give them my perspective on the problems in the world, and I confront them. At the end of the day, it’s faith in God that gets me through, and will get you through.”

“That’s why I made the record that I made. It’s an artistic, spiritual and hip hop statement, although it’s not your typical hip hop record. It’s stretching what one would call ‘hip hop’”.

dctalk is considered by many to be trailblazers in the CCM and alternative genres. Coming together with one of Gospel’s trailblazers, Kirk Franklin, makes that extra special. tobyMac and Kirk collaborated on the song “J-Train” from the album.

Momentum Review
Click for review tobyMac's solo debut, Momentum, is a melange of hip-hop and all else, with guests Kirk Franklin, DJMaj, Joann Valencia and others.

Click on the above CD cover for the review.
“Kirk is my dog. We’ve been talking about getting together for like six or seven years, and we finally did it. Actually I’m on his new record [too], but we don’t know where it will land. He was talking about making it a hidden track because it is a harder [sounding] song.”

“Kirk was saying that it might push the people too far. I was saying, ‘Come on Kirk. Push em!’.

“Kirk is definitely a guy that I looked to as a trailblazer. We want to rip down walls between what is considered Gospel Music and CCM. You see R&B and Rock ‘n; Roll together in the pop section, but for some reason you have Gospel music way over there, and Contemporary Christian Music way over here. We just think that it has to come down.”

“There’s needs to be Urban Gospel in CCM, and Adult Contemporary in the Gospel section. We’re also wanting to change the perception of Gospel in the mainstream market. If Gospel Music is served up in the mainstream, then it will get bought up.”

Toby is certainly no stranger to collaborations, having added his rap to hip-hop innovator John Reuben’s own solo debut (Are We There Yet, see album review), and also Damita Haddon, on her solo album from 2000 (rapping on her song, “Truth”; see album review). There appears to be more on the way too. “

“Actually, I got a call from KRS-1. As far as specifically Gospel music, I sure hope there’s more. I would welcome the invitation. I did a little something on Out Of Eden’s upcoming project [due in early 2002 on Gotee, with production from Lee Jerkins, Todd Collins and Lisa Kimmey]. Their new record is going to be nice.”

“I think that they got tired of skating between AC and urban-based music, so this time, they just went for it. They just said, ‘we are going to be who we are, and shine the way God made us to shine.’”

tobyMacIn his capacity as President of Gotee Records, tobyMac obviously has an ear to the ground on industry issues. With Out Of Eden having had a particularly hard time in getting airplay on both the CCM and Gospel stations, and other artists who present a similar diversity in sound also having experienced that phenomenon, this is a topic of great interest to him.

“I’m going to throw this at you. I did some research on the internet, I wanted to see a typical artist in CCM that we consider to be a ‘big artist’, and one that is fairly new. So I looked at Chris Rice. I like this guy’s music, and he’s an incredible artist.”

“I saw that his record scanned at 119,000 units. Then you pull up all three Out of Eden records, and they each scanned over 280,000 units. So Out Of Eden sells double of what he does on every release, and yet they are perceived to be a ‘smaller group’.”

tobyMac“I can’t figure out what it is. I don’t want to pull the “race card” too quickly, but I do think that it’s because CCM was built on Adult Contemporary music, and is more willing to adopt rock music more quickly than they are to R&B and Urban music. It’s time to adopt Urban music. If I have to go out kicking and screaming than I’ll do it.”

“It’s not a self-indulgent thing. I’ll pump up Mary Mary and Tonéx just as fast as I’ll pump up Out Of Eden.”

Michael-Anthony Taylor (aka Mookie) is much sought after in the CCM market and now Gospel music, having produced such artists as Stacie Orrico, Raze, Kindred 3 see album review), Londa Larmond see album review) and deLeon see album review). So how was it working with Mookie?

“We really started this record together. Other producers came along the way, but the real heart of starting my record was with Mookie and [producer] Todd Collins.”

Related Album Reviews
Click for review Click for review Click for review Click for review tobyMac is variously involved in the above albums.

Click on the above individual CD covers to take you to the reviews.
“The best thing about making a solo record is that you’re able to work some people that you don’t get to work with in a dctalk setting. Mookie was one of those people, along with Pete Stewart, Jeff Savage and Randy Crawford.”

“Mookie knows what he’s doing. He brings a fresh vibe to the studio. He understands beats and he’s defintitely a great vocal producer.”

Sixteen-year-old Joanna Valencia is featured all throughout Toby’s Momentum project, singing with a style that is all her own.

“Yeah she sounded the same way when she was 12 years old, and Gotee signed her when she was 13. We’re waiting on some situations, but as far as introducing her to the people, we thought that it would be cool to come out with my record first and then come out with her record.”

“She has a tone that not too many people are blessed with vocally. It’s like a Roberta Flack or Lauren Hill kind of vibe. Having her on the record is what I was looking for. I knew that I wanted some real R&B and if I’m coming, I’m coming legit. Joanna is legit, she has a real talent and gift from God."

Toby’s favorite song on his project is “Do You Know”, with a father-son theme woven through it, with the first verse written to his three-year-old son 'Tru-dog', and subsequent verses referencing our Father in heaven.

“A lot of times when I finish a record I can’t listen to it for a little while. I’m still processing, and wanting to change this and that. But this is one that I want to listen to. It’s what I always wanted to do.”

“Simple melody and killer production. It’s more about vocal textures than it is about anything else.”

And so there is no stopping tobyMac. Barrier-breaker and more, he does have momentum.

— interview by Dwayne Lacy
(November 2001)

  All content in GospelFlava.com © copyright 2001. No information to be reprinted or re-broadcast from this site without the expressed written consent of GospelFlava.com. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed in GospelFlava.com articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GospelFlava.com

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