In 1998, the Christian music genre was rocked on its head. The supergroup DC Talk has disassembled. Vocalists Kevin Max and Michael Tait were headed for solo careers and rapper/vocalist/songwriter Toby McKeehan was off to run his Christian label, Gotee Records. The Intermission had begun. Flash forward to 2016, the individual members of DC Talk announced that the Intermission was ending and that DC Talk would be reuniting for an event called the JESUS FREAK CRUISE. The band made a mark on the music industry as a whole and looks to continue to individually in the years to come.
Creating the Talk
DC Talk is the brainchild of Washington DC native Toby McKeehan. Toby met a fellow student and singer Michael Tait while attending Liberty University. The two began performing together and recorded a song written by Toby called “Heavenbound”. They performed to an audience of 8,000 students and sold 3,000 copies of their demo tape Christian Rhymes to a Rhythm, which included the single. Tait also recorded with the Falwell Singers and appeared Jerry Falwell’s The Old Time Gospel Hour. Soon after, the band grew to included Kevin Max Smith, later Kevin Max, from a fellow campus rock band. The three named themselves “DC Talk and the One Way Crew” before shortening to simply DC Talk, which stood for “decent Christian talk”. The demo tape soon found its way into the offices at ForeFront Records and the group signed with them in 1988. In 1989, the band released their debut album, DC Talk, which included “Heavenbound”.
Spreading the Talk
In 1991, the group released their sophomore effort Nu Thang, which produced two hits with the songs “I Luv Rap Music” and “Can I Get a Witness”. The band blended the styles of rock and rap music into a sweet blend. Later that year, the group released their Christmas EP Yo Ho Ho, with singles “The King” and “Reason for the Season”. The band also addressed social issues such as racism and abortion with songs like “Walls” and “Children Can Live Without It”. The rock/rap blend garnered attention to the group and soon they began opening for Michael W. Smith and won a Dove award. A year later, they won two more Dove Awards for Nu Thang, which had sold 300,000 copies. DC Talk gained an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992 due to their growing fame. Nu Thang was soon after certified Gold after selling 500,000 copies, a feat for Christian music at the time.
Fueling the Talk
In 1992, DC Talk released an album that would change the face of Christian music and go on to be certified Platinum, as well as be ranked the 9th best Christian album of all time. Free At Last included the songs “I Don’t Want It,” a cover of Bill Wither’s “Lean On Me,” and a remake of the Art Reynolds Singers song “Jesus Is Just Alright “. The album stayed at number one on the Billboard CCM sales chart for 34 weeks. They became one of the first Christian artists to appear on a late night show when the group appeared on The Jay Leno Show in 1993. Free at Last also garnered the group’s first Grammy Award for Best Rock Gospel Album in 1994. The album’s success led to the band moving away from strict rap and more to a hip hop/pop blend. The band was set to make a film titled Free At Last: The Movie, which was set for a September 17, 1995, release, but it never found a distributor and was released in its unfinished form to DVD. In 1995, the band released its fourth studio album, Jesus Freak, and achieved the highest first five weeks sales of any Christian release in history, reaching number 16 on the Billboard 200. The album was eventually certified Double Platinum and was certified Gold within 30 days of its release. This album was a fusion of the musical stylings, with a more pop-rock oriented sound combined with hip hop. The album marked a milestone for the group as they signed with Virgin Records in 1996 to distribute to the mainstream market. They also earned their second Grammy. The title track is also of historical importance. It is believed to be the first link between grunge and rapcore in Contemporary Christian music, and was the first non–Adult Contemporary song to win the Dove Award for Song of the Year. The song was also played on some secular stations. “Between You and Me” was a successful single, reaching number 24 and number 29 respectively on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 and number 12 on Casey’s Top 40, while the video received regular airtime on MTV and VH1. With the release of the album, the group launched a massive tour titled the Freakshow Tour, which took the trio across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The group released a live video titled Live in Concert: Welcome To The Freak Show which contained footage from the Freakshow tour. An audio CD of the soundtrack from the video was also released under the same title, reaching No. 109 on the Billboard 200. The CD Welcome to the Freakshow was certified gold and won dc Talk another Grammy award. Their last all-original album, Supernatural, was released in 1998, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200, another feat for Christian music. The songs “Consume Me,” “Into Jesus,” “Red Letters,” and “My Friend (So Long)” received their fair share of radio play on Modern Rock, Contemporary Christian, and Alternative outlets. The group then embarked on a 60-city tour across the United States titled, The Supernatural Experience. Footage from the tour was combined with interviews and released as The Supernatural Experience video and was certified Gold for long form video. In addition to touring and recording Supernatural, the members of the group went on to co-author a book titled Jesus Freaks in collaboration with The Voice of the Martyrs in 1999. The book contains the shortened biographies and incidents in the lives of famous and lesser-known Christians who stood up for their faith. Since then, the group has co-authored a series of other books.
Silencing the Talk
After their breakup in 1998, the band’s members each branched off into solo careers. In 2000, the band recorded two new songs for their album, Intermission: The Greatest Hits. In 2001, they each released their solo debuts.
Toby McKeehan, under his new stage name of TobyMac and signed with ForeFront Records, in conjunction with Capital Records, released his debut album Momentum, followed in 2003 by Welcome to Diverse City, in 2008 by Portable Sounds, 2010 by Tonight, 2012 by Eye On It, and 2015 by This Is Not A Test. Toby has since won multiple Grammys and Dove Awards as well as reaching the mainstream media. He is commonly called the “King of Christian Music”.
Michael Tait started his own band Tait in 2001 and released their debut Empty. This was followed by Lose of Life in 2003. He planned to release his album Loveology in 2007, but this has been delayed indefinitely. Tait never issued a breakup statement, but Michael Tait has since left his band. In 2009, Michael Tait was named the new lead singer of Christian music staple, Newsboys. Since then, Tait has recorded five albums with the band: Born Again (2008) , God’s Not Dead (2010), Restart (2013), Hallelujah For the Cross (2015), & Love Riot (2016).
Kevin Max instantly pursued his solo career, also on the ForeFront Records label. His debut, Stereotype B, was released in 2001, followed by Between The Fence & The Universe (2004), The Imposter (2005), Holy Night (2005), The Blood (2007), Crashing Gates (2008), Raven Songs 101 (2009), Cotes d’ Armor (2010), Broken Temples (2015), and Starry Eyes Surprise (2016). In 2009, Kevin Max became the lead singer of revived 90s band Audio Adrenaline, and recorded their album Kings & Queens in 2010. He left the band 2012 to return to his solo career.
On May 11, 2016, DC Talk announced their reunion for the JESUS FREAK CRUISE.
DC Talk remains one of the most influential and successful Christian bands in history. Its music and members still inspire to this day. While the band hasn’t made anything original in years since the Intermission started, but now the Intermission may be over. Please return to your seats for the second act.