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Eclectic Innovation
Posted August 03, 2015
By AmandaDeWilde_NRT, Staff Reviewer

He's an innovator, a dreamer. He's been at the frontlines of Christian music since the early 90s, and he shows no signs of slowing his momentum anytime soon. TobyMac's signature rap/hip-hop style has evolved over the years, each album slightly different than the last, keeping us guessing. Toby has long been known for his love of diversity, and fans have come to expect an eclectic mix of flavors from his musical pot of gumbo. 

This Is Not A Test is a hybrid of sorts. The album combines a more seasoned and polished form of the slower-paced, radio-single style that Toby began in Eye On It with a few more of his coveted hip-hop tracks. In many ways it's comparable to the ebb and flow of Portable Sounds and Tonight.

As one of the founding fathers of Christian hip-hop, Toby is the perfect mentor for up-and-coming artists with a dream. He has a passion for young talent and takes pride in featuring that talent on his albums. The title track, "This Is Not A Test," spotlights another heart-pumping collaboration with his protégés from Gotee Records, Capital Kings. An electro-rock mix that will undoubtedly be a hit at concerts, this song encourages us to make the most out of the life we're given as we only get one shot at it. 

Ryan Stevenson adds some killer vocals to "Lift You Up" while Mr. Talkbox brings the funk to latest single "Feel It." Newcomer rap phenomenon NF spits some impressive (and soul-searching) lyrics on the rap/rock infused "Till the Day I Die." And you can't have a TobyMac album without a Tru-Dog track, right? This time, fans are in for a treat when Toby's son Truett throws down some lyrics of his own on the hip-hop-tastic "Backseat Driver," a fun, dance-worthy track that reminds us to let God take control of our life rather than trying to offer our input into His plans.

Then we have "Love Feels Like." In this track, Toby reunites with his dc Talk bandmates Michael Tait and Kevin Max, a collaboration for which fans have been pleading for over a decade. The song has a classic dc Talk feel with an evolved, modern twist, basically picking up where the band's Supernatural album left off. We hear Toby shouting out rap lines like the old days, with Kevin and Michael singing on the verses. Obviously a team-up of this magnitude comes with a high bar of expectations from die-hard fans. I guarantee that this song will exceed those expectations.

The album also contains an element of old soul in "Move (Keep Walkin')" and even a bit of worship in the smooth, milky "Undeniable" in which Toby combines vocals on the chorus with slow rap on the verses. In "Fall," Toby sings a sweet love song to his wife, Amanda.

Closing Thoughts:
This Is Not A Test contains an overarching theme of dependence on the Almighty, reminding us to check our pride at the door of our heart and give glory to our Creator for everything He pulls us through. It contains a healthy mixture of soul, funk, hip-hop, rap and even some sugary pop tunes. Toby serves us some songs worthy of repeat and proves once again that he's got what it takes to top the charts.

Song to Download Now:
"Backseat Driver" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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