The year was 1991, I walked into the auditorium and headed toward our amazing seats on the 3rd row. Back then you paid around $20 for every seat in the house, so we would line up early outside the box office the day tickets went on sale. That’s right, no internet, no Ticketmaster, just kids fighting the elements to see their favorite artists in person.
We were there to see Michael W. Smith on the “Go West Young Man” Tour. I looked down at my paper ticket and commented to my friend about the opening act. “I don’t know who these ‘DC Talk’ people are, but they better not play long. I’m here to see Smitty… and what does ‘DC Talk’ mean, anyway?” But when Toby, Michael and Kevin took the stage, I became a forever fan. They could have played all night. Sorry, Smitty. (He also put on a great show 😃)
I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. When DC Talk came on the music scene, they gave us something never heard before in Christian music and people LOVED it! Their energy and passion were contagious. Their music was fun and pointed people to Jesus. The new fans were eager to be a part of it.
What does “DC Talk” mean, anyway?
Toby, Michael and Kevin met at Liberty University in 1987 and soon began performing together at conservative churches where they would “sneak in” their upbeat style with songs they wrote to appeal to the younger generation.
They called themselves “DC Talk & the One Way Crew”. DC proclaiming where they are from (near Washington, DC) and stood for “Decent Christian” Talk. Their sound was a unique blend of who they were. Toby brought the rap, Kevin brought the rock and Michael brought the soul. Inspired by rap music that Toby traveled into the city to hear whenever he got the chance, they took those beats and created a unique sound with a positive vibe that talked about Jesus.
They created their first cassette in 1988 and Toby ordered 1,000 copies. The other band members felt this was an outrageous amount and thought they would never sell them all, but all of them sold within a month!
DC Talk came close to ending before it began when Michael Tait was almost signed with the Gaither Vocal Band. But God knew Michael needed to be a part of DC Talk. Mark Lowry got the job with Bill Gaither and DC Talk moved to Nashville with no idea of the adventure ahead of them.
The bands success grew rapidly after signing with Forefront records, who released that first cassette in 1989 as the self titled album DC Talk. They went on to record 5 more albums, won 4 Grammy awards and 16 Dove awards. Even secular music was paying attention to what DC Talk was doing. They appeared on television shows, like The Arsenio Hall Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Their videos got airplay on MTV and BET. Their song “Nu Thang” was in the billboard top 10 for 52 weeks.
At a time where Christian music was trying to find its identity, DC Talk led the way. Breaking stereotypes and living an example of diversity and racial unity, they opened doors for Christian artists today to bring new ideas to the industry.
Even with all the media success, the band claims one of their most memorable experiences is opening on youth nights for Billy Graham. Rev. Graham called DC Talk his interpreter to this generation.
“Toby and I sat back, tears coming down our faces, couldn’t believe how powerful it was,” he continued. “Billy’s just a man but just the fact of being connected with a ministry like that on that kind of level and them using our words to facilitate a message to the people, nothing better.” – Michael Tait
Like Ross & Rachel, DC Talk decided to “take a break”. In 2001, they released an album called “Solo”, transitioning the band into solo projects. Fans still dream of a DC Talk reunion. There have been collaborations on TobyMac’s albums with “Love Feels Like” on This is Not a Test and “Space” on Life After Death. For a few days, the band reunited for the Jesus Freak Cruise in 2019, but it looks like fans may have to settle for glimpses of DC Talk in the years to come. Hey, we’ll take what we can get!
Even if you think you know DC Talk, you’ve got to check out these 3 deep cuts!
1) “Time Ta Jam”
Straight from the VHS recording, “Rap, Rock and Soul”, this lesser known track from their self-titled album, DC TALK lets you know what time it is. It’s “Time Ta Jam” with some Decent Christian Talk and some intense rhymes that tell of ultimate love. Rated G, of course.
2) DC Talk LIVE 1988 Before Forefront Records
This home video style deep cut takes us all the way back to 1988! Toby, Michael and Kevin were just getting their start by performing a small concert for a church youth group. The boys have some fun singing Heavenbound at the request of the crowd, along with a few other tunes that you’ve probably never heard DC Talk sing. Get ready for some classic 80’s fashion and Michael Tait’s moving version of “Jesus Loves Me” in his classic soulful style with a TobyMac spin.
3) DC Talk Video Press Kit 1992
This look at the success of DC Talk from the perspective of 1992, sums up the early career of DC Talk. Clips from their VHS video “Rap, Rock and Soul” will remind you that God is always doing a Nu Thang, but it’s fun to look back to what He’s done in the past. AND…you’ll discover the definition of rap music, cause “there’s no other kind of music in the world that makes you feel quite as chill”.
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