Branching Out

Tonight (Forefront Records)

By Kory Wilcoxson

As one-third of the seminal Christian group DC Talk, TobyMac was an important influence in that group’s early hip-hop influenced sound. But as DC Talk moved closer to mainstream pop, TobyMac’s voice was slowly squeezed out. So it’s more than a bit ironic that of the three members, TobyMac has had by far the most prolific post-DC Talk solo career.

His latest album Tonight will only continue his success. TobyMac has dabbled in a number of different musical styles on his first three solo records, but on Tonight he seems completely comfortable with this voice he has found. While the diversity is still there, it feels less helter-skelter than before. He can move between the island-tinged “Break Open the Sky,” the pounding “Hey Devil” and the hit single “City on Our Knees” and never sound out of place.

TobyMac has by no means abandoned his hip-hop roots (listen to “Funky Jesus Music” as evidence) but he has balanced it with a more mass-appeal sound. No two songs are even remotely the same, and even the few missteps (like the anthem-rock “Showstopper”) are tolerable.

Don’t be surprised if TobyMac starts to get some recognition from non-Christian markets. He’s earned his place there.

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