In 2001, dc Talk broke up. The three members went their own ways, with Kevin Max starting a semi-successful solo project before joining Audio Adrenaline this year, Michael Tait beginning his own band and eventually joining Newsboys, and Toby McKeehan creating a hip-hop project, tobyMac. Not only was tobyMac a success, but McKeehan saw the group become one of the highest-selling, most played Christian artists of the 2000s. However, his fifth studio album reveals the weaknesses that have slowly surfaced over the course of his career, and have, unfortunately, turned the artist in what I feel is a poor musical direction. In fact, Eye On It is so overcome by these flaws that it’s the first tobyMac effort that I do not like.
The first track and first single from Eye On It, titled “Me Without You,” is predictable radio hip-hop and is easily one of the weakest tracks the group has ever done. That’s all there is to it. While it could be a Top 40 hit, tobyMac doesn’t belong there; rather, he belongs in the bosom of Christian alternative radio – a place where he’s comfortably developed over the past several years. Comparable to Adam Young’s approach on his latest release with Owl City, the song is ridden with auto-tuned vocals, club-ready beats, and instrumentation that is anything but enticing. And sadly, much of the remaining material follows in the same fashion. Sure-to-be singles “Steal My Show” and even “Forgiveness” are fairly insatiating. Even Lecrae – my favorite modern rap artist – can’t save the latter from being cookie-cutter hip-hop.
“Unstoppable” is one of two redeeming songs in the mix. Featuring Blanca Callahan from Group 1 Crew, this track, which holds the frenzical, crunk-infused spirit of Tonight, has a bouncier feel to it, but it’s matched by an adrenaline rush of grungy pop-rock. Though it may be a rejuvenating track, no other song off Eye On It provides the same firepower; however, as far as catchiness is concerned, the title track proves to be quite addictive. The other redeeming track is the piano-meets-acoustic “Family,” a classic tobyMac offering where both an uplifting tone and stripped-down feel benefit it to the utmost.
Toned-down albums can often demonstrate and signify maturity in an artist’s work, but in tobyMac’s case, Eye On It feels sluggish and uninspired. While it may congregate some of tobyMac’s most mature songwriting and compositional elements to date, it’s performed in a fashion that just doesn’t fulfill who he is as an artist. Though many may argue that Eye On It displays tobyMac in his most conventional, commercialized form, for me – as such a humble fan of his work – the album just comes off as effortless and unappealing.
Though his sincerity to Christ and musical honesty come through as always, musically, tobyMac’s sixth studio album is a big disappointment. It’s unoriginal, generic, and lacking beef. While some later tracks represent some of the strongest material off Eye On It, there isn’t a single track on the album that matches up to any of tobyMac’s past singles. Go back and listen to “I’m For You,” “Burn For You” and “Get Back Up” before you even consider giving Eye On It a full listen, as it is easily the weakest and most unfulfilling effort of McKeehan’s musical career.