Artist BiographyToby McKeehan (born Kevin Michael McKeehan; October 22, 1964), better known by his stage name TobyMac (styled tobyMac), is a Christian recording artist, music producer, hip-hop/pop artist, singer-songwriter, and author.
TobyMac was one of the first and best-known Christian rappers. He was first known for being a member of the Christian vocal trio DC Talk, staying with them from 1987 until their announced hiatus in 2000. He has since continued a successful solo career with the release of five studio albums: Momentum (2001), Welcome to Diverse City (2004), Portable Sounds (2007), Tonight (2010), Eye on It (2012), as well as two remixed albums of the first two albums titled Re:Mix Momentum and Renovating Diverse City respectively, and one remix album for albums number three and four titled Dubbed and Freq'd: A Remix Project (2012). He also has a full-length Christmas album Christmas in Diverse City (2011). TobyMac became only the third Christian artist to have a No. 1 debut on Billboard's Top 200 chart with Eye On It.
Between DC Talk and his own solo career, he has sold more than 10 million albums. TobyMac has had six No. 1 hit CHR singles including "Gone", "Made to Love" and "Lose My Soul." Five singles have gone to No. 1 on Billboard's Christian Songs chart, tying him with Third Day for fourth on the list of artists with the most No. 1 hits on that chart. His live concert CD+DVD combo album, Alive and Transported, was released in 2008 and received the Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album at the 51st Grammy Awards in 2009. His fifth studio album, Eye On It, was released on August 28, 2012 and received a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album at the 2013 Grammys held on February 10, 2013.
DC Talk (1988–2001)
Toby formed DC Talk with Michael Tait in 1987, at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. He and Tait released Christian Rhymes to a Rhythm in 1988, while they recruited classmate, Kevin Max Smith. The three set out on tour after they released their first album in 1989, DC Talk. In 1990, they released their first gold album, Nu Thang. After the Nu Thang tour, they recorded their first platinum album, Free at Last. The Free at Last Tour was a success. They were invited to play on The Jay Leno Show and The Arsenio Hall Show, getting mainstream attention. They released their first single for their next album, which immediately became a hit single. The album went multi-platinum and the best Christian album in the face of CCM music, Jesus Freak, which they released in 1995. The album led to the extremely popular Jesus Freak World Tour. They eventually released the tour CD, Welcome to the Freakshow. The tour ended in success in time for Supernatural, which would be their last album. The album would sell platinum. They then went solo in 2001. The band has not toured together since 2001 (except for one show in Redmond, Washington, in 2005, and when TobyMac made surprise guest appearances at Winter Jam in 2010 in Nashville and in 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina, and sang "Jesus Freak" with Michael Tait). However, DC Talk has recorded several songs together since their hiatus: "Let's Roll" in 2002 (a song about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001), "Atmosphere (Remix)" on TobyMac's 2004 album Welcome to Diverse City, and "The Cross", a track on Kevin Max's 2007 album The Blood. The last album with the group was "solo".
In 2001, TobyMac released his first solo album titled Momentum. McKeehan composed and recorded the song "Extreme Days" for the 2001 Truth Builder Productions film Extreme Days, which was featured on the Momentum album. The song Extreme Days was also used in the movie, Hangman's Curse, based on the popular book by Frank Peretti. His song "Get This Party Started" was featured on an episode of the TV show Roswell. His song "Irene" was a big hit. His song "Yours" made it to the Top 5 on ChristianRock.net. His songs "Yours", "Extreme Days", "Get This Party Started", and "Momentum" were all recently featured in the Xbox 360 video game Crackdown. Momentum gained five Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination. In 2002, he released his first Christmas album, This Christmas with only two tracks: "This Christmas" and "O Come All Ye Faithful". In 2003, he remixed the Momentum album. This album was titled Re:Mix Momentum. His song "Yours" was used in TNA (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) as "Sting's" Theme song. On Kirk Franklin's 2002 album The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin he was featured on "Throw Yo Hands Up".
Welcome to Diverse City (2004–2006)
Welcome to Diverse City was released in October 2004. The album debuted and peaked on the Billboard 200 at No. 54, selling 21,000 copies that week. The album's song "The Slam" was featured in the film Never Back Down, advertisements for the films Transporter 2, Aeon Flux, and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, as well as advertisements for the television show Prison Break. The song was also featured in car commercials, men's NCAA clips, NBA Finals (Miami Heat, 2006), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programming, NFL Football commercials, and "The Ultimate Highlight" on SportsCenter. Ohio Valley Wrestling performer Matt Cappotelli (who currently is unable to perform due to a brain tumor) uses "The Slam" as his entrance theme. In the movie Never Back Down Toby's song "The Slam" is featured in the main fight scene. "Diverse City" was featured in the Veronica Mars TV episode The Wrath of Con, as well as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 4. "Atmosphere" was used in a Volvo car commercial, "Burn For You" was used for cinnamon gum commercials (as well as on a Dr. Phil advertisement). The album gave TobyMac another Dove Award for Rap/Hip-Hop Album of the Year. A remix version of the album, Renovating->Diverse City, was released in 2005.
Portable Sounds (2007–2008)
McKeehan's next album, titled Portable Sounds, was released in 2007 and sold 50,645 copies in its first week, debuting at No. 10 on the Billboard 200, and at No. 1 on the SoundScan Contemporary Christian Overall chart. The album also received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. The songs "Made to Love" and "I'm For You" both hit No. 1 and were the second and third most played songs on Christian Hit Radio stations in 2007. "Ignition" is being used by ABC/ESPN to promote its coverage of NASCAR, and "Boomin'" has also been used to promote a new crime-drama, The Women's Murder Club, on ABC, as well as others. In September 2007, his song "Feelin' So Fly" appeared in the film The Game Plan starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Recently, "Ignition" received worldwide exposure when it was used as the Arizona Cardinals entrance music during the pre-game of Super Bowl XLIII. Then in March 2011, it was played during NCAA tournament promo during Arizona vs UConn game. TobyMac was awarded two Dove Awards for his work on this album, including Artist of the Year. His music video featuring the song "Boomin" was awarded a Dove Award for Short Form Music Video of the Year. Around this time also, he wrote his song, "New World" for the "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and recorded the song "What We Gonna Do?" for the VeggieTales movie, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie. "Feelin' So Fly" and "I'm for You" appear in Thrillville: Off the Rails.
Alive and Transported (2008–2009)
TobyMac released his first live album as a solo artist in 2008. Alive and Transported was a live recording of the Portable Sounds Tour in Houston, TX. It included covers of popular DC Talk songs "Jesus Freak" and "In the Light". The album included a DVD of the concert and gained him a GMA Dove and a Grammy Award.
TobyMac's fourth studio release, Tonight, was released on February 9, 2010. The album debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, selling 79,000 units in its first week. The album's first single, "City On Our Knees", was released on August 14, 2009. The song reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs and No. 1 on both Christian AC and CHR. Christopher Stevens and Dave Wyatt joined McKeehan in producing the album, as with the production of his 2007 release, Portable Sounds. Truett, aka TruDog, Toby's oldest son, was once again featured on a song as in the previous albums. The album is a mix of pop, rock, hip-hop, Latin, and funk, similar to his album Portable Sounds. The album charted No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and No. 1 on the Billboard Christian albums chart; selling 79,000 units in its first week. He recently finished touring with Skillet and House of Heroes on the "Awake Tonight Tour". The title track of the new album is featured in the intro of MLB Network's TV show 30 Clubs 30 Days. In March, he announced the "Hello Tonight" summer 2010 tour with Chris Tomlin. The song "City On Our Knees" earned TobyMac a Dove Award for Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year. The song "Showstopper" was used to promote World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) June 2010 Pay Per View, "Fatal 4-Way", and was used at least once in NCAA Basketball. It was also used as an introduction to Thursday Night Football in 2009–2010. His single "Tonight" was also used as a pregame introduction at home games for the Baltimore Orioles during the 2011 MLB season. The song was also promoted for ESPYS' Best U.S Male Olympian. TobyMac's "Tonight" was listed best Christian album of 2010 on iTunes and his Christmas single titled "Christmas This Year" (featuring Leigh Nash) was awarded the holiday song of the week on iTunes. He won the "Artist of the Year" at the 2011 Dove Awards. Additionally, the songs "Get Back Up" and "City On Our Knees" were recognized for being two of the Top 25 most performed songs on Christian radio over the past year. TobyMac toured with Third Day, Michael W. Smith, Jason Gray and Max Lucado on the World Vision-sponsored "Make a Difference Tour 2010". Tonight was nominated for a Grammy in the category "Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album" for the 53rd Annual Grammy awards. TobyMac's first full-length Christmas album, Christmas in Diverse City, was released October 4, 2011. It contains songs from each of the Diverse City members as well as TobyMac. Its other guest artists include: Leigh Nash, Owl City, Jamie Grace, Victor Oquendo, Superherose, Arch Nemesiz, Tim Rosenau, Todiefunk, and Byron "Talkbox" Chambers. TobyMac released his third remix album, Dubbed and Freq'd: A Remix Project, on March 26, 2012 featuring remixes of songs from his prior two studio albums.
Eye On It (2012–present)
His fifth full-length studio album, Eye On It, was released August 28, 2012. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 1, which is a first for a Christian album since 1997, and sold 69,000 copies in its first week. The first single, "Me Without You", was released to iTunes and Amazon MP3 on June 12, 2012 and went to No. 1 on Billboard's Christian Songs chart on September 1, 2012, becoming the singer's fifth chart-topper. "Family" was used in a promotional advertisement campaign for the show Blue Bloods. One showing of this advertisement was during the 2013 Super Bowl.
TobyMac has written two books with Michael Tait and Kevin Max, Jesus Freaks: DC Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs – Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus, the Ultimate Jesus Freaks, and Jesus Freaks: Revolutionaries: Stories of Revolutionaries Who Changed Their World: Fearing GOD, Not Man. These books are mainly focused on Christian martyrs. Toby Mac has also written two more books with Michael Tait, one titled, Under God, containing stories of America's spiritual battles, and another book called Living Under God: Discovering Your Part in God's Plan.
TobyMac has written a fifth book called City On Our Knees. The book is about how Christians past and present have set aside differences, come together in unity, and stepped forward in action and prayer.
TobyMac is the president of the record label Gotee Records. He created the label with Todd Collins and Joey Elwood in order to produce Out of Eden's Lovin' the Day after efforts to sign the group to an established label proved unsuccessful. "We all collectively said, 'Let's just give this a shot'", Elwood recalls; "Three naïve guys, a willing band, and some really good songs." Gotee features artists such as Relient K, House of Heroes, Jamie Grace and Abandon Kansas. However, as a recording artist, TobyMac is under contract with ForeFront Records.
Toby also performs in "Rock the Universe" in Universal Studios and "Night of Joy" in Walt Disney World annually each September. Toby usually alternates between Rock the Universe and Night of Joy.
Toby has also helped establish a camp, called Camp Electric, located near Nashville, Tennessee, for young musicians who want to have pop and rock skills.
Toby released a DVD, TobyMac: Moving Pictures Featuring His Entire Work of Music Videos, on November 10, 2010.
Toby made a headline appearance at the quadrennial event NYC (a conference of the youth of the Church of the Nazarene) at its most recent North American gathering in Louisville, Kentucky.
Toby's song "Eye On It" was used in several commercials by the Fox Sports Networks for NBA and MLB telecasts. He appears in the 2013 film I'm in Love with a Church Girl.
McKeehan and his wife Amanda were married in 1994. Amanda, who comes from Jamaica, is the daughter of Judy and Robert Levy (of Jamaica Broilers fame). Being married to a Jamaican, and with regular visits to the island, TobyMac is well immersed in Jamaican music, language and other aspects of local culture. Toby and Mandy live in Franklin, Tennessee.
They have five children: Truett, born September 4, 1998; twins Moses and Marlee, adopted in 2002; Leo, born on November 2, 2004; and Judah, born March 24, 2006.
Truett has appeared on the albums Momentum, Re:Mix Momentum, Welcome to Diverse City, Renovating Diverse City, Portable Sounds, Tonight, Christmas in Diverse City, and Eye On It, as the artist "TruDog". Judah McKeehan has appeared on the albums Tonight and Eye On It with Truett.
2003: Re:Mix Momentum
2004: Welcome to Diverse City
2005: Renovating Diverse City
2007: Portable Sounds
2008: Alive and Transported
2011: Christmas in Diverse City
2012: Dubbed and Freq'd: A Remix Project
2012: Eye On It
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