As far as Christian rap goes, TobyMac really has no idea what he’s doing. It sounds like he’s stuck on “dcTalk.” However, if anyone knows how to put on a show in Christian music, it’s TobyMac. “Alive & Transported,” T-Mac’s live CD & DVD combo is a spectacle to behold. With the dollars of Christian music giant Forefront Records behind him, he is able to do what other Christian rap artists aren’t able to do: put on a huge show that rivals the likes of Justin Timberlake. In fact, T-Mac may be the closest the Christian subculture is going to get to having a “JT.”
The concert features songs from T-Mac’s three studio releases “Momentum,” “Diverse City,” and his most recent “Portable Sounds,” which peaked at number #10 on the Billboard 200.
Like most live albums, things open with the fading up of the sound of a raucous crowd. Soon thereafter, TobyMac and the Diverse City Band kick things off with the appropriate starter “Ignition.” The song is high energy and gets the crowd jumping. “Catchafire (Whoopsi-Daisy)” and “Boomin” keep things going, making the front end of the album rather “hit-heavy” and fast-paced. “Irene” is definitely one of the better live tracks, featuring an amazing horn section. I was skeptical that “J Train” would translate well without the presence of Kirk Franklin on the track, but Nirva Dorsaint-Ready and Shonlock fill the void nicely. “The Slam” is a fan favorite as it has been featured in a number of movie previews, films, and television commercials. The song has gotten a lot of airplay and fans were quite familiar with it, seemingly upset when the song had come to a close. “Made To love” slows things down a bit, but seems misplaced between faster pieces, throwing off the experience a little bit. American Idol alum Mandisa’s turn on “Lose My Soul” is excellent.
One thing I didn’t like about the album was the inclusion of “In The Light” and “Jesus Freak.” Those are dcTalk songs and TobyMac has a large enough repertoire to not have to rely on “sure things.” People came to see “TobyMac, The Solo Artist”, not TobyMac 1/3 of dcTalk Trying to Relive His Glory Days. As it is, T-Mac is the most successful of the trio. He doesn’t need to ever sing another dcTalk song. Another complaint, if I may get a bit dangerous, is T-Mac’s desire to be “urban” and “spit slang” in front of a mostly suburban crowd. Make no bones about it, TobyMac has no street credibility. He is popular because parents remember him from dcTalk and he looks like their kids. He can pretend to be urban, just so long as he isn’t really urban. It’s fun to pretend. That is why his albums sell, including this one. That is why his first two albums were certified gold. That is why he is nominated for Grammys and multiple Dove Awards above the Christian rap artists who must pound the pavement everyday. Three-quarters of the kids in T-Mac’s audience haven’t heard of many Christian rappers beyond himself, KJ-52, and John Reuben. B. Reith is on his way. “Diverse City” may be the name of his second album, but diversity is not something most of his fan base is interested in.
Lest you think I have been too harsh and drawn racial lines that need not have been drawn (all of the aforementioned artists I’ve cited are white), I do like “Alive & Transported.” Is it rap? No. It contains attempts at rap, but it’s not rap—at least not anything fans of current rap would consider credible. But, he puts on a good concert, his fanbase likes it, and it translates well to the screen without seeming cheesy on any level. The camerawork on the DVD portion of the album is great. You can tell director Eric Welsh knows what he’s doing, snapping between wide shots of the stage, tight shots of T-Mac and band members, and shots of the exicted and energized crowd. The DVD also features a 56-minute documentary of behind the scenes footage including an in-depth look at each members of the Diverse City band that is quite the gem.
No Ordinary Love
I’m For You
In The Light
Love Is In The House
Lose My Soul
Made To Love
Burn For You