Husband, Dad, Trendsetter: The Many Sides of TobyMac

By Andy Argyrakis | senior editor,
Posted: Wed, 03/21/2012 - 11:49

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Some refer to TobyMac as a pioneer, others an innovator, and still others a trendsetter, while those who know the man behind the music know he’s a steadfast family man and all-around good guy. Each description certainly paints an accurate portrait of him as both an artist and a human being, but considering how many layers there are to his larger-than-life personality, the adjectives seem to only begin to scratch the surface of the veteran artist’s formula for success.

“I think I’m a perfectionist and I’m always gonna strive for the very best art I can make,” shares TobyMac. “I’m a bit of a people pleaser, and the fact is, I want a 50-year-old man to like my music as well as a 12-year-old kid and a music critic, even though you can’t hit all those marks. I think you begin to look internally more and more and ask ‘so God, what are you saying? What are you breathing through me?’ If my legacy looks anything like that, then I’ll be happy.”

If history has been any indication, TobyMac has certainly hit the cross-cultural nail on the head, first as a member of the now legendary rap to rock trio dcTalk, and more recently, as a solo star who’s arguably the faith-based hip-hop world’s biggest attraction. Together, he’s sold more than 10 million albums with the pace sure to pick up this month as he drops the brand-new Dubbed & Freq’d: A Remix Project (his first remix in seven years).

“[Remixing] was really hot and Gotee [Records] used to do a lot of them, even with some dcTalk songs back in the day. Then it kind of died out for awhile,” he notices. “When I released my first solo CD Momentum, a remix album came a year later and then Welcome to Diverse City [followed the same cycle]. I took a little break and we never got to it after running so hard around the time of Portable Sounds, but then after I put out Tonight, I thought ‘I have to do this again’ now that remixing is hotter than ever.”

In keeping with that pattern, Dubbed & Freq’d chronicles fan favorites from both Portable Sounds and Tonight, re-imagined by a series of producers (Telemitry, G-Man Remix, Golden Snax and even his nephew’s band Capital Kings, to name a few) in the hip-hop, pop, dubstep and modern house traditions.

“For remix records, an artist can be very involved or back off, and for me it’s the latter,” he continues. “For all of my remix records, I choose the producers and remixers and let them do their thing. Then I either say ‘yes’ or push back with ‘what if you did this or that?’ The way I see it, I’ve already taken my shot at the songs and put the recipe together.”

The singer/songwriter/rapper always seems to have his finger on the pulse of modern trends, which is truly remarkable considering he’s been in the business for 25 years. Besides the fact that he’s a genuine fan of all musical styles who immerses himself in the many facets of pop culture, TobyMac also feeds off of fellow artists and friends with equally voracious appetites. 

“Honestly, I don’t mean to be pious, but I love music and I love to know how music is changing in our culture, not only stylistically, but how we’re making music differently,” he asserts. “The pious part would be asking God to surround me with greatness – people who inspire me musically and [in living out my faith] more passionately. He’s been responsive, faithful and gracious.”

Even with all of his achievements and notoriety, TobyMac makes it clear that family life is his first priority, as evidenced by a careful balancing act of home time with touring and a tireless commitment to raising his children right. Though sacrifice is certainly a factor at times, a close-knit support system keeps schedules in check.

“There’s constant accountability, starting with my wife­ – don’t mess with a Jamaican!” he verifies with a laugh. “If I’m on the road too much, she lets me know… God’s amazing in having these songs move people, but I couldn’t stand for one second if [it came at the expense of] being a dad or husband who’s never there. As I’m standing here right now, I’m looking at pictures of my five children and the thought of me loving the road so much that they would say ‘Dad wasn’t there for basketball or my piano recital’ makes my stomach sick. I would give up music for my family, but as long as there are people in my life who can tell me the truth even when it hurts, then that sets up a recipe for success in that area. I could easily stumble and fall, but I’m thankful for God’s graciousness to help me maintain balance between [music and being] a dad and husband.”

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About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, and He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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