DC Talk (styled as dc Talk), is a Grammy-winning Christian music trio from Lynchburg, Virginia. The group formed around 1988, consisting of Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait, and Kevin Max Smith. They have released five major studio albums together: DC Talk (1989), Nu Thang (1990), Free at Last (1992), Jesus Freak (1995), and Supernatural (1998). The group is considered by many to be the most popular Christian act of all time.
In 2000, the group released an EP titled Solo which contained two solo songs from each member. Since that time, DC Talk has been on an indefinite hiatus, and the three band members have each led solo careers. They have performed and recorded individual songs together several times during the 2000s, although the group never officially reunited.
The group's musical style evolved significantly throughout their career. Their first two releases, DC Talk and Nu Thang, were of the rap/hip hop genre. DC Talk's third album, Free at Last, also mainly took influence from the hip hop style, although their music began taking on a rock sound. The trio's last two albums, Jesus Freak and Supernatural, were predominantly pop rock.
?DC Talk? was a nickname that Kevin Michael McKeehan, later "TobyMac", (1964- ), who was born in Falls Church, Virginia, was given for being from the Washington D.C., area. While attending Liberty University, McKeehan met Michael DeWayne Tait (1966- ), and the two began to perform together. Tait had been featured singing on Jerry Falwell?s The Old Time Gospel Hour and recorded with the Falwell Singers. He also performed solo, what TobyMac later described his "kind of an R&B / church-oriented music."
The two joined forces to record a song that McKeehan had written, ?Heavenbound?. They performed the song before an audience of 8,000 Liberty students with McKeehan rapping and Tait singing the chorus. The song was well received, selling out the approximately 3,000 copies of their demo tape, Christian Rhymes to a Rhythm. The tape included "Heavenbound? and was distributed by the group in the Washington D.C. area. The group?s demo tape eventually led to a recording contract with Forefront Records in 1988. Kevin Max Smith, later "Kevin Max", (1967- ) came from a campus rock band to join the group, and the trio called themselves ?DC Talk and the One Way Crew". The name was later simplified to ?DC Talk?, which came to stand for ?decent Christian talk?.
DC Talk (1989)
After signing the recording contract with ForeFront the label released their self-titled debut album, DC Talk, in 1989 with Mike Valliere and Vic Mignogna. The music video for their first single, "Heavenbound", received airplay on the BET network. The album became the best selling debut by a Christian artist, but has since been surpassed.
Nu Thang and Yo, Ho, Ho! (1990)
Their sophomore release, Nu Thang, and a Christmas album titled Yo, Ho, Ho!, were released in 1990. Nu Thang had two successful singles: "I Luv Rap Music" and "Can I Get a Witness". Apart from dealing strictly with Christian themes, the band incorporated songs addressing social issues, such as racism in the song ?Walls? and abortion in ?Children Can Live Without It?. The hip hop/pop styling of the album earned the band attention, expanding the group's audience, and by 1991, Nu Thang had sold 200,000 copies. The band became an opening act for Michael W. Smith and received a Dove Award. The release of their Rap, Rock, n' Soul video garnered a wider audience for the group, being certified gold for long form video. In 1992, a year after its release,Nu Thang sold more than 300,000 copies and gave the trio two more Dove Awards. In addition to the increasing attention that the group began to receive, DC Talk appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show that same year. Dc Talk became one of the first contemporary Christian artists to perform on late-night television when, in the fall of 1993, the band performed ?Jesus Is Still Alright? on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "Nu Thang" ended up being certified gold, selling over 500,000 copies, an impressive feat for a Christian artist at that time.
Free at Last (1992)
In 1992, the group released an album that would forever change the landscape of Christian music, Free at Last, which was later RIAA-certified as Platinum. "Free at Last" is considered to be one of the best rap albums of all time, be it Christian or secular. The album produced six Christian radio hits, including "I Don't Want It", "Lean on Me", and "Jesus Is Just Alright". It stayed at the #1 spot on the Billboard CCM sales chart for 34 weeks. Free at Last also garnered the group's first Grammy Award for Best Rock Gospel Album in 1994. The success of the album is attributed to the group moving away from a strictly rap sound to a blend of hip hop and pop. "Free at Last" also won dc talk their first grammy award. The album also prompted the filming of a documentary film with the same name.
Free at Last the Movie
Main article: Free at Last: the Movie
During the Free at Last tour the band was followed around by camera crews to film a documentary. The documentary was going to be released as a theatrical film, Free at Last: the Movie, and was heavily promoted on Lightmusic TV, a Christian music video show. After months of teaser trailers, they abruptly stopped being shown. A trailer included in the enhanced CD single of Jesus Freak advertised a September 17, 1995 theatrical release date for the film. It was never released to theaters, as it could not find a distributor. Eight years after the film was to be released theatrically, the movie was finally released on DVD in unfinished form. Some of the footage used for the movie was shown in the video for their song "The Hardway".
Jesus Freak (1995?1997)
Jesus Freak was released in 1995, and it achieved the highest first-week sales of any Christian release in history, reaching #16 on the Billboard 200. The album, which was ultimately certified double platinum, was certified gold within thirty days of its release. This album had a more pop-rock oriented sound, with little hip hop to be found, more similar to a fusion of the musical stylings of Nirvana and U2 than M.C. Hammer. Many consider Jesus Freak to be the greatest album ever released within Christian Music.
Jesus Freak marked a milestone in the group's commercial career as they signed a deal with Virgin Records in 1996 to distribute their music to the mainstream market. It also earned dc Talk their second grammy.
The title track is also of historical importance. It is believed to be the first link between grunge and rapcore. The song was also played on some secular stations, fueled by requests of those who just wanted to hear the best song of 1995.
"Between You and Me" was a successful single, reaching #24 and #29 respectively on Billboard's Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 and #12 on Casey's Top 40, while the video received regular airtime on MTV and VH1.
With the release of the album, the group launched a massive tour titled the Freakshow Tour, which took the trio across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The group released a live video titled Live in Concert: Welcome To The Freak Show which contained footage from the Freakshow tour. An audio CD of the soundtrack from the video was also released under the same title, reaching #109 on the Billboard 200. The CD "Welcome to the Freakshow" was certified gold and won dc Talk another grammy award.
Supernatural, released in 1998, was their last all-new studio album. Upon release, the album overtook Jesus Freak to set a new record for the highest first week sales for a Christian release. It debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 charts, an unprecedented event for a Christian rock album. Supernatural abandoned the hip hop/rap style found on the group's earlier releases to settle for the pop/rock sound. The group has stated in The Supernatural Experience video that this album was different; it was a collaborative effort of all three members. The songs "Consume Me", "Into Jesus", "Red Letters", and "My Friend (So Long)" received their fair share of radio play on Modern Rock, Contemporary Christian, and Alternative outlets. The group then embarked on a 60-city tour across the United States titled, The Supernatural Experience. Footage from the tour was combined with interviews and released as The Supernatural Experience video and was certified gold for long form video.
In addition to touring and recording Supernatural, the members of the group went on to co-author a book titled Jesus Freaks in collaboration with The Voice of the Martyrs in 1999. The book contains the shortened biographies and incidents in the lives of famous and lesser-known Christians who stood up for their faith. Since then, the group has co-authored a series of other books.
In 2000, DC Talk hosted a show titled "Intermission: A Decade of DC Talk". A compilation album titled Intermission: the Greatest Hits was then released, containing many of their previously recorded songs either remixed or in their original formats. Two new songs, "Chance" and "Sugar Coat It", were recorded for the album. Intermission reached #81 on the Billboard 200.
In 2000, the members announced that they would be taking a break from the group to pursue solo efforts. They released Solo: Special Edition EP, which contained two new songs from each member's solo ventures and a live version of the U2 song "40" performed by all three members. The EP reached #142 on the Billboard 200 and did, in fact, win dc talk their fourth grammy award.
DC Talk also planned and postponed a tour for the winter of 2002, starting with Fairfax, Va. They have not planned a tour since.
In September 2002, DC Talk reunited to record and release a single about the September 11, 2001 attacks, entitled "Let's Roll." The group also released a 10th Anniversary Edition of their 1992 album Free at Last, which includes all of the songs from the original album (including interludes), a 2002 remake of their hit song The Hardway, as well as a commentary at the end. The Special Edition releases also include the DVD of their Free At Last documentary, as well as the music videos for "The Hardway" and "Jesus Is Just Alright".
In 2004, DC Talk reunited for a remix of tobyMac's "Atmosphere" as the final track of the Welcome to Diverse City album.
On September 12, 2005, DC Talk briefly reunited during a concert on September 12, in Redmond, WA. They played the songs, "In the Light" and "Jesus Freak."
On January 12, 2006, Gotee Records (founded by DC Talk's TobyMac) announced the production of a 10th anniversary Jesus Freak tribute album entitled, Freaked!. This album, which was released in June 2006, features songs from such Gotee Records artists as Relient K, Sarah Kelly, The Showdown, House of Heroes, Verbs, Liquid, and Family Force 5. It also features a reunion of the Gotee Brothers.
In August 2006, an album titled The Early Years was released. It is a compilation of songs from their first three albums.
On December 26, 2006, a 10th Anniversary Special Edition Jesus Freak album was released.
In 2007, DC Talk covered the Prince penned song "The Cross", featuring on Kevin's album, "The Blood".
In 2008, Gospel Music Channel interviewed TobyMac, Michael Tait, Joey Elwood, Michael W. Smith, Greg Ham, Peter York, Amanda McKeehan, and Dan Pitts for a TV show called Faith and Fame. The group also released another Greatest Hits album.
Main article: tobyMac
Toby McKeehan assumed the stage name of TobyMac, a name that was first mentioned in the lyrics of "Jesus Is Just Alright" when McKeehan rapped, "TobyMac, and the Mac is back no slack". Given his name by his older brother who said he was going to be born in the month of "Tober". He has focused mostly on the pop/hip-hop genre. His first solo album was Momentum. It was released in 2001 and included the hits, "J Train," "Somebody's Watching," "Irene," "Extreme Days," "Get this Party Started," and "Love is in the House." Since then, he has released two other full albums and two remixed albums. Welcome to Diverse City came out in 2004, containing "Diverse City," "Catchafire (Whoopsi-Daisy)," "Gone," "Burn for You," and the remix of "Atmosphere," which featured his former bandmates. Portable Sounds came out in February 2007 and debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200. In 2008 he released a live CD/DVD combo entitled Alive and Transported. He has had considerable success in the mainstream market.
Main article: Michael Tait
Michael Tait pursued his solo efforts with the band, Tait. The band's first release was Empty in 2001, which included the single Loss for Words. Lose This Life was the follow-up album released in 2003. It contained the singles Lose This Life, God Can You Hear Me, and a hidden track, Christmas Song. Tait planned to release Loveology in 2007, an album he has been working on for a few years with Ben Moody. Its release has been delayed for unknown reasons. Loveology is likely to be released sometime in 2009. Tait also featured in the Rock Opera !Hero, as the main character, Hero. The production is a modern retelling of Jesus' life, as if he were born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is also brother of southern gospel music singer Lynda Randle. On March 9, 2009, it was announced that Peter Furler was stepping down from touring and from being the lead singer of the Newsboys, and has been replaced by Michael Tait.
Main article: Kevin Max
Kevin Max has released five albums since the group's hiatus. Stereotype Be was released by Forefront Records in 2001, and included the singles "You", "Be", and "Existence". He signed with Northern Records to release his next three projects. Between the Fence and the Universe was an EP released in 2004, and his next major studio album, The Imposter, was released in 2005. Holy Night, a Christmas album, was also released in 2005 through the Northern label. The Blood was released on December 26, 2007 by Infinity Music Distribution. It features covers of several well known gospel songs, both classic and contemporary, as well as the original-written track "One Way, One Blood". The album includes collaborations with several other artists, including Chris Sligh and Amy Grant. dc Talk made an appearance on his version of Prince's song "The Cross", with each member singing one verse in the beginning of the song.
The group is notable for its stances against racism (especially in "Colored People", second track of Jesus Freak), as well as the uncompromised Christian message in its music. "We're very open about our Christian faith," says McKeehan, "but when we make our records we want to create a musical experience that anyone can immerse themselves in." But still, he says, "one of our goals is to encourage listeners to question themselves and to seek out truth."
E.R.A.C.E. (Eliminating Racism And Creating Equality) was launched in September 1997 when dc Talk participated in the "Racial Reconciliation Rally" in Little Rock, Arkansas The rally was part of a weeklong emphasis on racial reconciliation.
In 1998, the group began the E.R.A.C.E. Foundation to combat racism. The foundation was started after four years of discussion and planning with manager Dan Pitts and Gotee Records President, Joey Elwood. The primary aim of the foundation is to educate and equip America's youth with "an understanding of the importance of interracial unity". The foundation works on healing historically divided groups and healing rifts within the society.
Jason Halbert ? keyboard, organ
Otto Price ? bass
Mark Townsend ? guitar
Brent Barcus ? guitar
Will Denton ? drums
Marvin Sims ? percussion
GRITS - Choreography