TobyMac performs at Toyota Center on Feb. 19

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 12, 2014 

Toby McKeehan, aka TobyMac, is a Christian recording artist, music producer, rapper, rocker, author, philanthropist and a genuinely nice guy.

He'll bring his Hits Deep Tour to the Tri-Cities on Feb. 19 for a rockin' good time at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

McKeehan took time from his hectic tour to chat with the Herald about his music, his causes, his family and his love of God.

"I grew up with all kinds of music, and I'm passionate about it all," McKeehan said. "I am a man of faith, and honest lyrics are as important to me as my faith."

His energy and charisma haven't waned much since he first thundered onto the music scene in the 1980s with the award-winning band DC Talk. He left the group in 2000 and branched out on his own, releasing 10 albums, and earning the American Music Award for best contemporary inspirational artist in 2012.

He took honors for top Christian artists in 2013 from Billboard Music Awards, and his Grammy wins include best rock gospel album in 2009 and best contemporary Christian Music album in 2013.

From 2003-13, TobyMac accumulated 18 Dove awards that included rap/hip hop album of the year, producer of the year, short form music video of the year, pop album of the year and artist of the year.

And even though the music is his passion, he devotes as much time as he can to help budding musicians, like establishing Camp Electric near Nashville, which gives young Christian musicians a chance to develop their skills with seasoned recording artists.

"Camp Electric's strong commitment to Christian music gives these young musicians an opportunity to maximize their individual potential as well as to grow in their spirituality," McKeehan said.

McKeehan and his wife of 20 years Mandy have five children. His wife also comes from a musical family from Jamaica. Her parents are Judy and Robert Levy of Jamaica Broilers fame.

"I have an amazing family that keeps me focused on what's important," McKeehan said. "I see music as something that connects people, whether its rap, hip-hop, rock, pop, jazz, you name it. Bringing creative cultures together musically moves me. I'm enjoying the ride."

Also opening for TobyMac will be Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Matthew West and Matt Maher.

Heath earned the Dove Award for male vocalist of the year in 2009 and 2010. His third album, Leaving Eden, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Christian charts in 2011.

Mandisa is a three-time Grammy nominee and American Idol contestant in its fifth season. Her song, Stronger, hit No. 1 on the Christian Billboard charts.

West is a four-time Dove Award nominee with five album releases since 2003, and won the American Music Award for best contemporary inspirational artist in 2013.

Maher is a singer/songwriter and worship leader whose lyrics are described as anthems to his faith. His music has earned two Grammy nods.

Tickets to the concert are from $25 to $75, plus service charges if purchased at ticketmaster.com. Tickets purchased at the Toyota Center box office avoid service charges. Ticket prices are $5 more the day-of show.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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