Over the years, Christian music has shifted from being a niche genre for music-loving Christians to a popular genre enjoyed by listeners of all religious and nonreligious backgrounds. That change has been aided by the growing wave of contemporary Christian music, where Toby McKeehan, aka TobyMac, holds considerable influence.
Famed as one of the first Christian rappers to combine biblical words with music, TobyMac has been active in the industry for over thirty years. There are plenty of facts worth learning about the music star, all of which are covered below.
A Brief Look at His Background
Toby Mckeehen was born Kevin Micheal Mckeehen on October 22, 1964, in Fairfax, Virginia. He is a graduate of elementary school at Prime Ridge Elementary school. He spent a few months at Luther Jackson Intermediate before completing high school and headed over to Liberty University.
After he had graduated from high school, he decided to pick up a career in music, which was what drove him to start looking for like-minded individuals with whom he could share ideas and start an actual music career.
How TobyMac Became A Successful Music Star
TobyMac’s first introduction to music came earlier on in his life. He grew up listening to all kinds of music, from hip-hop to rock music. That exposure was a solid foundation that was cemented at the age of 13 after he attended a church camp. There, he was inspired to make music out of the words of the bible.
Before he graduated high school, he developed a friendship with Michael Trait, and their shared love for music led to the formation of DC Talk. In college, their group got an additional member through Kevin Max Smith, completing the trio. Their group name, DC Talk, was adopted from TobyMac, who already went by the name as a performer during his college years.
DC Talk began in 1987, and they were together until 2001. They released their first album, DC Talk in 1989, and followed it up with four other albums before they went on a hiatus in 2001. During their time together, the group became the most popular Christian music group act of all time, according to the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music.
The group explored different styles during their time together, taking advantage of the diversity in TobyMac’s music background. Their first two albums, DC Talk and Nu Thang were hip hop albums, while the last two – Jesus Freak and Supernatural, were pop-rock albums. Their third album, Free at Last, was a combination of both genres of music.
With DC Talk, TobyMac got six Grammy nominations, winning four of them. He also got 21 nominations from Dove Awards, winning 16 of them.
Details of His Career As a Solo Artist
His first solo album was released on November 6, 2001, and it was titled Momentum. It was a hit, which was a good start for Toby, who, since then, has had about six successful albums. His first live album as a solo artist was titled Alive and Transported. Interestingly, most of his songs have appeared on both Christian and mainstream media.
One fact that perhaps best encapsulate how TobyMac’s music has made Christian music mainstream is the use of several of his songs in mainstream works such as the TV shows, Roswell, 90210, and films like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, The Game Plan. His music has also featured prominently in the WWE.
As a solo artist, he has sold more than ten million albums and has won several major awards, including four Grammy Awards out of 11 nominations. He also has multiple nominations from the Billboard Music Awards, the American Music Awards, and Dove Awards, where he has more than 50 nominations.
Outside of recording music, TobyMac is also the founder of the music label, Gotee Records, which he founded alongside Todd Collins and Joey Elwood. He also founded a music camp, Camp Electric, based in Nashville, Tennessee, where young children all over the country come to sharpen their pop and rock music skills.
Everything You Need To Know About TobyMac’s Family
Just as he has found success as a musician, TobyMac has also found success in his personal life. The Fairfax, Virginia born musician, is the patriarch of a family of six, all from his marriage to Amanda Levy McKeehan. His wife is a Jamaican and they have been married since 1994.
The two of them share five children, two of whom were adopted. Their first child, Truett McKeehan, was born in September 1998, while their fourth and fifth children, Leo and Judah, were born in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Their middle children, Moses and Marlee, were adopted in 2002.
TobyMac and his family suffered the unfortunate passing of his firstborn in October 2019, and one of the twins, Moses, has muscular dystrophy. The family currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
How Did His Son Die?
On the 23rd of October 2019, TobyMac and the rest of the McKeehan family suffered the unfortunate loss of their first son, Truett Foster McKeehan. He was found dead in his home in Nashville, where the official cause of death is said to be cardiac arrest.
TobyMac’s son was an aspiring musician, who was just as devoted to Christianity as his father. Described as a beloved son who had a grand personality, Truett’s death drew condolences from TobyMac’s fans all over the world.
— Tintin Crisanto (@tintincrisanto) November 7, 2019
Following the announcement of his son’s death, TobyMac took a hiatus from music and is expected to return later in April/May 2020 in a 12-city theater tour of the US.