Who is TobyMac and how is he at the top of iTunes?

Who is TobyMac and how is he at the top of iTunes?

I was slightly perplexed this week to see TobyMac in the #1 spot on iTunes.  Why?  Because I have never heard of him, and that’s reason enough to tick me off.  It irks me that apparently hoards of people knew this person or group or whatever and I did not.  I thought TobyMac might be a country singer, but then I realized I was getting him mixed up with Toby Keith, one of hundreds of indistinguishable (to me) country singers.  I quickly consulted Wikipedia, my trustiest fact source, and got my answer.

Who is TobyMac?  A Christian rapper.

I probably shouldn’t follow that revelation up with WTF, but I absolutely did not know that Christian rappers even existed!  I was intrigued.  While not overly religious myself, in the past I’ve been annoyed at how graphic and profane most rap is because I like the genre but question its family friendly quotient.  I even wrote another blog post about my conundrum, but I never stumbled across “Christian rap” during my research.  I decided to give TobyMac’s new album (“Eye On It”) a whirl.

The sound of the songs on “Eye On It” at various points reminded me of Bruno Mars, Owl City and One Direction.  They are catchy and upbeat, not at all “churchy.”  I think calling TobyMac a rapper might be a stretch, but I’d be okay with classifying him as hip hop.  He’s definitely got that pop sound.

I was also curious about whether his songs would be too religious for my liking.  More than being “Christian,” however, I would call TobyMac “wholesome” with a light infusion of God.  For instance, in the song “Made for Me” he sings about his love-at-first-sight experience with his wife, and “Family” discusses the challenges of staying close on a daily basis.  There’s even a song called “Mac Daddy” about his son's quest for a beloved Apple laptop.  Don’t get me wrong, God does pop up here and there.  “Me Without You” is about what TobyMac’s life might be like without God, and “Forgiveness” is about confessing your sins.

It’s all done in a way that is very mainstream and (according to iTunes) appealing to a wide audience based on the performance of “Eye On It” this week.  I’m curious whether all those listeners are existing fans?  Or is this a welcome, refreshing change from Lil Wayne & Co.?  I don’t know, but I’m fairly pleased with the discovery and am curious to test TobyMac on the teenage yutes under my roof.

TobyMac says that he sees music as a powerful tool and a way of reaching people.  According to his website, “Toby has worked hard to inspire his audience with words of conviction, hope, empowerment and the redemption found in his faith in God.”  Hard to argue with that, right?  Use a medium that is appealing to people and try to spread a good word.

I was shocked, therefore, to Google info about TobyMac and stumble across a website that proclaimed that TobyMac is “singing the Devil in Jesus’ name” and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  The author’s argument is that TobyMac is a conformist (he’s a pretty hip looking dude) and the fact that he looks like a punk aligns him with actual punks.

Huh.  I guess I was wrong, although I find it curious that there is a certain way someone who promotes God should look.  Will you hear TobyMac playing at your Sunday service of choice?  Probably not; he’s not pretending to sing church choir music.  But I’m not going to quarrel with someone who promotes a positive message and may or may not dye his hair from time to time.  There are families out there who successfully insulate their kids from society’s less savory side (Duggars), but for the rest of us TobyMac is a pretty good option.

Here is a short clip of TobyMac explaining the meaning of his first single, “Me Without You.”  Enjoy!

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Filed under: Album Reviews

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