TobyMac, you lift me up


Truett Foster Mckeehan had joy that took the room when he entered. He was a magnetic son and brother and friend. If you met him, you knew him, you remembered him. His smile, his laugh, the encouragement he offered with words or even without. He had an untamable grand personality and dreams to match. And he hated being put in a box. He expressed himself through the music he made. And by made I mean, written, recorded, produced, mixed, and designed the art. All of it. A true artist. His first show was a week ago, and it was nothing short of electric. Everyone felt it, everyone knew it. He could’ve easily taken the easy route and put music out when he was 12, 14, 16, even 18, but he always said he wanted to live some life and have something to say before he did it. He didn’t want to be a child star, he wanted to be a man with scars and a story to tell. I always admired, respected and encouraged that stand. Truett always had a soft spot for God. The Bible moved him. His heart was warm to the things of his King. He was by no means a cookie cutter Christian but give me a believer who fights to keep believing. Give me a broken man who recognizes his need for a Savior every time. That’s who Truett was and how he should be remembered. My last moment with Truett in person was at his first show this past Thursday at the Factory in Franklin, Tennessee. I had to leave the next morning very early to fly and start our Canadian tour. As I stood in the audience and watched my son bring joy to a room, I was as proud as a “pop” (as tru called me) could be. It was the culminating moment of a dream that he had since he was 12. It couldn’t have been sweeter. Our music, and what we say lyrically couldn’t be more different, but the outcome was much the same… offering a room full of people a few minutes of joy in a crazy world. Our last text exchange is shared above (swipe). My wife and I would want the world to know this... We don’t follow God because we have some sort of under-the-table deal with Him, like, we’ll follow you if you bless us. We follow God because we love Him. It’s our honor. He is the God of the hills and the valleys. And He is beautiful above all things.

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Anyone who grew up with me knows how much I'm into the gospel singer/rapper, TobyMac.

If you spend enough time with me, you'll hear about him eventually.

If Toby is a missionary for God, you could call me a missionary for TobyMac.

Anytime someone asks me how I got into rap, I always say I listened to a lot of "Christian rap" growing up.

I'll always remember listening to DC Talk's Free At Last record over and over again with my family in the late '90s.

I often think that's where it all started.

My favorite DC Talk member for the longest time was actually Mike.

My friend couldn't find Mike's solo CD when the group went on hiatus.

She gave me TobyMac's solo debut instead.

I saw him in concert (Mike was there too!) for the first time when I was 14.

I have to give Toby a lot of credit for my interest in rap.

Toby may be the single biggest influence on my career path.

When I was younger, I fantasized about being signed to Toby's label, Gotee Records.

I've known for the last ten years that I want my own record label just like Toby.

He's probably the first artist with his own label that I looked up to.

I might not sound anything like Toby or share his belief system anymore, but he's influenced me in so many ways.

From the joy of knowing what hip-hop is...

Getting to know some of his biggest influences (The Police, GAP Band)...

And most of all, his unwillingness to compromise his beliefs and what he stands for.

To me that's a universal theme that I've been able to relate to in my own ways.

When DC Talk was a potential crossover hit from the Christian market to secular mainstream, Toby said:

"I've always said, if we crossover - we'll take the cross over."

In the '90s he started a non-profit called the E.R.A.C.E. Foundation because he was so fed up with how white people were treating People of Color.

He talked about an old white guy shaking his hand after a DC Talk concert but refusing to shake Mike's hand because of his skin color.

He's always talked about racial reconciliation and sent subtle messages to his white audience that we need to get our act together.

His themes of diversity are so universal in his music and reflected in his life.

I take pride in my circle becoming increasingly more diverse.

I always look to Toby as a big influence on that.

The more I find out about Toby's story, the more I fall in love with it.

His career started before I was born.

There was no internet documenting it.

I've found bits of his story through a breadcrumb of interviews and articles over the years.

I continue to unravel the mystery...

As a teen, Toby would go out on the weekends to early rap shows in the diverse Washington, D.C. area...

He said he was often "the only white boy" at those hip-hop shows in the early '80s.

His dad couldn't afford to send him to college, so Toby became a great golf player and won a scholarship to a private university.

He produced the first demo tracks for his rap group D.C. Talk.

Always the entrepreneur, Toby went around his college selling the tapes.

They sold out like hot cakes.

I have so much more to write but the reason why I'm writing is because his oldest son, also an artist, passed away this week at the age of 21.

I was looking forward to Truett's career so much.

My heart breaks for Toby.

Sending my condolences to Toby McKeehan and his family...

Toby featured his son Truett on all of his albums except his last one (The Elements, 2018).

In lieu of a feature, Toby wrote the song "Scars" about their relationship.

Here's one of my favorites from the years of TruDog features:

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