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John Lamb, Published October 10 2012

Christian rapper TobyMac brings new top-selling album to Fargodome

FARGO – TobyMac is delivering “the good word” to a whole new beat.

As a member of the vocal trio DC Talk and later as a solo artist, the singer is credited as one of the first Christian rappers.

The performer brings his praise verse to the Fargodome on Sunday night.

We reached the singer, born Kevin Michael McKeehan, last week, one day into the tour.

“It went great,” Mac said of the first show. “It needs a few little adjustments, but it’s what we were hoping, it really connected with people.”

With pulsating beats, the electronic dance music of “Eye on It,” his fifth studio album, is engaging, as was evident when the disc debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 after its release Aug. 28. Mac is only the third artist to have a Christian album open in the top spot.

What did it mean for you to have “Eye on It” to open at the top spot on the charts?

It means a lot. It means my songs are connecting with their lives. I was blown away people would react to my music the first week it came out like that. It’s an honor that people, based on your past work, would just go out and buy it the first week and trust that it’s good and trust that it’s the kind of music they would want for their lives.

You were one of the first contemporary Christian artists to embrace rap and hip hop. What has the reaction to that like in the 1990s and even through today?

I think most people have been receptive because they’ve taken time to listen to the song or maybe come see me in concert and hear my heart. I think it’s clear that I love hip-hop, pop music and rock ’n roll and I think if I love that type of art and I’m expressing, what better to put lyrically in that than what is dear to my heart. So it doesn’t matter the music format to me. If God and His principles are dear to my heart and I’m singing in this format of music, I make no apologies for it.

When you’re making such an energetic album as “Eye on this,” are you ever concerned that it will be too amped-up, that the message will be lost?

The message of the song will meet the person where they are when they need to hear it. Yeah, it might get lost on some people, but the fact that it gets lost on some people will cause it to reach other people. I love entertaining, but what I’m saying in my songs is more important to me. I want people to be entertained, but I want them to leave my concert or listen to my CD with food for thought, make them want to love people well, serve the poor, love God with all their heart. I want goodness to come out of it. I don’t think music can change the world, but I believe God can and music can be one of the things he uses.

What’s it like to record with your kids? Truett sings with you on “Mac Daddy” on the new album.

He’s done every CD from the first CD. He was 3 on the first CD. You can hear him growing up on my CDs and that’s kind of crazy. It’s always been my intention for it to be one day in the studio, father and son, conjure up the most fun thing and keep it light. It’s just a father and a son having a good time together and I think the world could see a little more of that.

You’re talking about Truett growing up, at the end of this month you’ll be 48. Hip-hop is a young man’s game. How long do you think you’ll be making this kind of music?

I’m thinking I want to make heart music. It doesn’t matter what it is stylistically. If I write about the things I’m going through and it’s real, I don’t think there’s a time limit on it. I think you have to be realistic about what you’re doing and I think you have to be passionate about it. If you’re going through the motions or it looks fake on you, people will smell a rat. If I write songs about the things I’m going through as I’m aging, then those things will be real to the people that are listening. At the end of the day, keep it real and you can keep going.

If you go

What: TobyMac with Chris August and Jamie Grace

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fargodome, 1800 N. University Drive

Info: Tickets are $21.50, $31.50 and $41.50, fees may apply

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533