TobyMac "This Is Not A Test (Deluxe Version)" by Michael Tackett (cmaddict.com) on 2015-08-06 09:47:18
There is no denying that Tobymac is a veteran, and dare I say icon, in the Christian Music Industry. He emerged in the 80s with the groundbreaking and multi genre band DC TALK. While they released noteworthy albums through the early 90s, it’s their 1995 offering, “Jesus Freak,” that is defined as a turning point in Christian Music. Rightfully so, it's considered to some to be the greatest Christian record of all time. In 2001, the group took an “intermission” and with that, Tobymac emerged as a solo artist and has released new material for the last 15 years.
With each release, Toby slowly began to move away from the hard rock/rap sound to a cleaner pop sound. The end result was 2012 record “Eye on it,” which stands as his most pop record to date. While some liked the more pop sound, this reviewer in particular, found it not as creative or freeing as his early solo work. Now, 3 years later, Tobymac seems to have brought his musical style full circle, and back to his roots, with “**THIS IS NOT A TEST**”.
The record starts off with a bang with the catchy “Like a Match” and “Back Seat Driver.” These tracks very quickly show you that the pop sound has been replaced with Toby’s signature guitar and beat loops in years past. Side note - Back Seat Driver features Mac’s son, Tru Dog, who has been on every single studio record since Mac started in 2001. The record hits a new level with the next handful of tracks featuring the catchy title track, “Light Shine Bright” and “Til the Day I Die.” The latter track features NF, whose own debut created mass buzz earlier this year. The song, which is a highlight, starts off slow, but quickly picks up with a roaring chorus and finale that features NF. The constant musical progression on this track is impeccable.
Mid record we are treated to “Feel it” which reminded me of Michael Jackson meets Daft Punk (yes, you read that right). It’s a fun track that keeps the listener engaged. From there, we are given another handful of catchy songs with the motivational “Move” to “Love Broke Through,” which tells the story of Toby’s acceptance to Christ. This combined with the album closer “Undeniable,” featuring “New Hope Academy” gives us a complete biographical look into Toby’s walk with Christ.
As if this record didn’t provide enough highlights, we are treated with what may be the most anticipated track this year, “What Love Feels Like,” featuring DC Talk. The last time we heard these three voices on a track was 7 years ago (before that, 10 years ago). It’s an aggressive track where each singer has their time to shine and by the end I was left with one of the most satisfying musical experiences I have had in quite a while (the guitar solo at the end is such a nice touch, too).
The musical and lyrical highlights in this record are honestly too many to count. Where some artists spend 1-2 months in the studio, Tobymac said he worked 1.5 years on this record, and let me tell you - it shows. The amount of detail put on each track leaves no room for fillers. Each song breathes on its own. Toby explores new musical territories, while not compromising on the overall quality of his work.
In 2015, Toby has made what may be his most creative and personal record to date. From his first walk with Christ, to the struggles he faces now, he has put it all on the line. At one point on this record Toby says, “Hold on, The Lord Ain’t finished yet” - couldn’t have said it better myself.
NOTE: There is a deluxe version of this record that feature 2 additional tracks and 2 remixes. The two new songs are a little bit more on the pop sound, so they don’t really fit with the overall feel of the record, but are good add-ons for those diehard fans.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Genre: Pop / Hip-Hop
Label: ForeFront Records
Release Date: August 7, 2015
Buy it: Amazon - iTunes
Like a Match (3:07)
Backseat Driver (feat. Hollyn & TRU) (3:21)
This Is Not a Test (feat. Capital Kings) (2:39)
Lights Shine Bright (feat. Hollyn) (4:35)
Til the Day I Die (feat. NF) (3:47)
Feel It (feat. Mr. Talkbox) (4:39)
Move (Keep Walkin’) (3:41)
Love Broke Thru (3:57)
Beyond Me (3:13)
Love Feels Like (feat. DC Talk) (4:19)
Lift You Up (feat. Ryan Stevenson) (3:30)
Beyond Me (Phenomenon Remix By Soul Glow Activatur) (3:47)
Like a Match (Garcia’s Remix) (3:35)