One of the most influential and groundbreaking acts in Christian music, dc Talk officially got its start in the late ‘80s when Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait and Kevin Max met at Liberty University.
Before dcTalk (which stands for “decent Christian talk”) was dc Talk, however, Toby and Michael began performing together while Michael also worked as a singer for Jerry Falwell’s “The Old Time Gospel Hour.” Meanwhile, Kevin Max was playing in another band altogether.
Sensing something special whenever they collaborated, Toby and Michael eventually began writing new material with their peers in mind. Instead of merely serving up Gospel music as usual, they wrote songs with a distinct urban/hip-hop flavor.
After writing “Heavenbound,” which would eventually serve as dc Talk’s introduction to the music scene, the group eventually recorded a demo and recruited Kevin, a powerhouse vocalist, to round out their sound.
A record deal and a move to Nashville would soon follow. Once dcTalk’s self-titled debut album released in 1989, the buzz about the band’s diverse sound, not to mention its faith-filled message (a rarity in hip-hop music), was significant. A mere year later, the hullabaloo continued with the release of Nu Thang, which featured significant social commentary on everything from racism to abortion to the best way of dealing with parent/child conflicts.
As it turns out, that was only the proverbial tip of the iceberg success-wise. In 1992, the album that’s often considered one of Christian music’s best of all time, Free At Last, was released. Securing a gig on “The Tonight Show,” a first for a Christian artist, the album produced six Christian radio hits including “In the Light” and “Jesus is Just Alright.”
A documentary-style film was made of the “Free At Last” tour and a buzzworthy new single was used for the movie’s trailer: “Jesus Freak.” The grunge rock sound of “Jesus Freak” quickly became a favorite of Christian music fans. When the album by the same name released in 1995, dc Talk achieved another first for Christian music, the highest spot (#16) on the Billboard 200 chart.
“Jesus Freak” also broke new ground when it was the first non-adult contemporary song to win “Song of the Year” at the annual Dove Awards. The song was also played on a few mainstream stations, a phenomenon that would eventually help dc Talk cross over into pop music.
Three years after the Jesus Freak album, the band released Supernatural. Not only did it debut at #4 on the Billboard charts, a new first for Christian music, but singles “Consume Me,” “Into Jesus” and “My Friend (So Long)” were favorites on both Christian and mainstream radio.
Then, with the release of a greatest hits package in 2000, the band announced they were taking a break from dc Talk to pursue solo endeavors. Aside from a few joint collaborations over the years, the band has never reunited as dc Talk.
Toby McKeehan, more commonly known as TobyMac, is one of Christian music’s most successful solo acts, while Michael Tait is currently the frontman for Newsboys. Kevin Max also continues to record as a solo artist when he’s not writing poetry or acting.
Scott & Kelli