TobyMac Life After Death Album Cover

Album Review: TobyMac – Life After Death

Stay in your lane.

Probably good advice. But I like TobyMac. Saw him live several years ago on a whim and again earlier this year with seats that got me up and close. His live show delivers an exceptional spectacle but the hip hop genre veers way off my radar.

Not that TobyMac fully equals hip hop. He’s mostly hip hop and often successfully mixes rock and pop into his hip hop music. He comes from DC Talk, the Christian rap and hip hop group from the 80s that disbanded in 2001 and now TobyMac has successfully navigated his own way in the music world for decades.

He lost his son in 2019. An accidental overdose.

As a result, he recorded one of the finest songs I have ever heard in “Promised Land” that he released last year. It was one of those songs I played over and over and over. An amazing accomplishment that combined stellar music, exceptional lyrics and pain.

This song along with 14 others arrived in his ninth album Life After Death today (Aug. 19). You can probably guess just by the album title alone what many of the tracks discuss. TobyMac also collaborates with a Noah’s ark full of artists including his former DC Talk bandmates Michael Tait and Kevin Max, popular Christian singer Tauren Wells and the mainstream pop star Sheryl Crow.

A whole lotta hip hop on Life After Death. But not exclusively. “Promised Land” gets the duet treatment with Crow. I don’t understand why he brought Crow in for a new version of a song that was already a 10 out of 10 so no disrespect to Ms. Crow but this version takes some getting used to. It’s not bad, it’s just not the original. I LIKE THE ORIGINAL. But musicians do what musicians do, I guess.

“21 Years” is the first song TobyMac wrote after his son Truett’s death – at the age of 21. But (I think) it’s in “Faithfully” where the listener really gets a gut-wrenching insight into the days and nights that followed TobyMac after his son passed. One of the shortest songs coming in under three minutes but TobyMac didn’t need much more to get his point across. It’s been a long year it almost took me down I swear / Life was so good I’m not so sure we knew what we had / I’ll never be the same man / I’ll never feel like I felt before.

Brutal.

It draws in the same musical strength that made “Promised Land” a powerhouse and one of the few off the album that embraces the pop side of the TobyMac collection. This one comes close to dethroning “Promised Land” for TobyMac’s best song.

“Fires’s Burnin” featuring Cory Asbury is probably one of the funnest pop songs TobyMac has written and recorded. A track that brings some light and lightheartedness into the all-around album theme of heart wrenching loss.  A definite repeater.

The DC Talk reunion on “Space” makes you wonder why these guys ever parted ways. Another pop-centric song that shows the almost incomparable dynamic musical range of TobyMac. “I’m Sorry (a lament)” takes a page out of the Old Testament books of Nehemiah and Daniel as TobyMac offers less a song but more a prayer in an apology to the Lord on behalf of (one can only assume) America. A pretty powerful cut and brilliantly simple in its musical nature.

The rest, if you enjoy hip hop, have at it. All good stuff of the genre if that’s your jam. Though I did enjoy the mostly pop-infused opening song “Help Is On the Way (Maybe Midnight)” and yes I enjoyed “Life On It” including the rap section. Shocker, I know. A pretty good song overall.

Now listen. If Christian lyrics or Christian artists scare you, let not your heart be troubled. The grooves are infectious not his faith. You won’t end up gyrating in the spirit or swinging from the chandeliers. No doubt, if TobyMac dropped some F-bombs and rapped about hoes and female dogs he’d have a Grammy winner on his hands.

But I’m pretty sure TobyMac has far greater rewards coming his way not to mention an eagerly anticipated reunion.

Grade: B+

TobyMac Life After Death Songs:

  1. Help Is On The Way (Maybe Midnight)
  2. The Goodness
  3. Deeper
  4. Show Up Choose Love
  5. Promised Land
  6. Everything About You
  7. Life On It
  8. Faithfully
  9. Cornerstone
  10. Found
  11. Fire’s Burnin’
  12. Space
  13. 21 Years
  14. I’m Sorry (a lament)
  15. Rest

7 thoughts on “Album Review: TobyMac – Life After Death

  1. Neat stuff to read about an artist I have never heard of. Sad about his son but good on him getting out there and playing music which we all know heals…

  2. I’m not very familiar with TobyMac (I always tend to think he’s a country artist with that name), but I listened to quite a few tracks on this album, and they’re pretty good. I particularly like “Fire’s Burnin'”, “Space” and “21 Years”, and think the addition of Sheryl Crow’s vocals on “Promised Land” actually gives the song even deeper resonance, at least for me.

    I’m similar to you in that I’m not a huge fan of hip hop. But I do like some rappers like Eminem, and also when rap is skillfully incorporated into alt-rock and pop by artists like twenty one pilots and Linkin Park. But I’m turned off by a lot of Black hip hop and rap artists due to their copious use of “F-bombs and rapping about hoes and female dogs”, as you duly note.

    1. I never thought about the country sound of his name. now I can’t unsee it! lol. well good on you for checking it out. I think we have similar thoughts on rap. I need to check out 21 pilots more too.

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