2012-09-11

Eye On It – TobyMac – Worthy Of A Piece of History

by Yo Snyder

TobyMac has been on the Christian music scene for quite some
time, earning all kinds of awards and accolades. Now, he also has a little
piece of music history. His latest album recently reached the number one spot
on Billboard’s Top 200 chart; the first time in fifteen years that a Christian
artist has been able to do that. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is the album
Eye On It isn’t exactly what one
would call a “cross-over” album; with lyrics that appeal to mainstream but have
deeper significance. If anything, it’s one of TobyMac’s most overtly Christian
albums yet, filled with a worshipful attitude of humility and reliance on God;
a reliance that isn’t cleverly disguised in any way. What does it say about
today’s culture that such an album could be the first number one Christian
album on mainstream charts since 1997? More importantly, is it good enough to
deserve that top spot? Well, I think we can answer at least one of those
questions.

The album starts off with a fun, light, happy beat on “Me
Without You”, a track that despite its candy coating takes on the idea that we
can have any sort of self-reliance. My wife noticed that it has a fun little
reference to the movie Jerry Maguire.

Things get particularly interesting on the next track.
Especially in the hip-hop culture of self-glorification, here Toby essentially invites
God to steal the spotlight from him. “Steal My Show” is a bit slower than the
previous track, but again retains that happy vibe paired with a truly profound
reflection on what our prominence in life should truly be. I especially like
the bridge where it says “When you arrive, we come to life”; if only more of us
truly felt that way about our relationship with the Lord.

Toby’s always been known as a great collaborator, and that’s
no less true on this album. The title track, “Eye On It”, features Britt Nicole
and it’s here where the party really gets started. If you’re head isn’t bobbing
and your feet aren’t tapping, if you don’t have the desire to just jump up and
jam when this track hits, you should probably check your pulse. Britt Nicole fans
might be disappointed that she doesn’t have a more prominent role, especially since
she drops a little hip-hop on her new album Gold,
but she mostly provides some excellent background on this track.

On the next track, however, Toby’s guest has a bit more to
do. LeCrae joins Toby to sing about “Forgiveness”. Again, the upbeat and mostly
happy vibe remains, but the topic couldn’t be more significant. “‘Cause we all make mistakes sometimes and we’ve
all stepped across that line, but nothing’s sweeter than the day we find
forgiveness.” What a great message to share with a hurting world. How many
people out there need to know that there is forgiveness for all their mistakes?

On “Speak Life”, we get a great rally of encouragement. 2
Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have
received from God.” That’s the message of this song. Our will is filled
with hurt, but for those of us who know Christ, we know the answer to that
hurt, we have the words of life within us, and we need to share them with a
world in need.

The party kicks into high gear again on “Unstoppable”
with Blanca from Group1Crew making a guest appearance. It’s a rallying call for
those in the Kingdom of God to remember that “not even the gates of Hades will
overcome it.” (Matthew 16:8). As residents of God’s kingdom, we are
unstoppable, something we should never forget in the battles we face in this
world. As the song says, “We’re not afraid. To live is Christ. To die is gain.
So break the noise.”

Things get reflective while keeping up the
energy on “Lose Myself”. Again, this is another track of humility that reminds
us of our proper place and what our priorities should be. “I wanna lose myself,
lose myself to find you…Burn it all to the ground, your Kingdom I desire.” To
set aside our desires for the desire of God’s heart and his kingdom, it’s
something that’s never easy, but this is a rousing reminder of the fact that’s
exactly what we should be seeking.

The next track is probably one of the
toughest. It’s a song that struggles with a very prominent problem in our society;
broken families. Once again, Toby finds a way to convey a somber atmosphere
without ever delving into true despair; somehow he still maintains a sense of
optimism. This is one of those tracks that just has to make you wonder how this
album made it to number one. I mean, how many songs do you hear out there that
call for a stand for family, for the preservation of marriage, to choose
against the easy out of divorce and to face those tough moments with resolve
because, “I believe in family”? Can’t think of many, and considering the
ongoing debate of what makes up family in today’s culture, this song really
feels like a line drawn in the sand.

Mr. Byron “TalkBox” Chambers makes an
appearance on a track that is probably one of the most personal songs on the
album, “Thankful For You.” Toby offers up his own personal thanks to God for
his help throughout Toby’s career. It’s a fun song that feels like a proper
celebration of God’s role in our lives, and once again reminds of the
prominence God should have in our lives. Plus, the fact of the matter is, most
of us probably just don’t stop to thank God nearly enough. This is a great
track to pop in and take a moment to do just that as you sing, “I’m thankful
for you.”

Going back to theme of family and marriage,
TobyMac has a fun time reflecting on that special gift some of us are blessed
enough to receive; a spouse given by God for us to love and be loved by. “Made
For Me” is the type of song I’d call up a radio station to dedicate to my wife.
Part of what makes it so much fun is how it celebrates the fact that “opposites
attract”, and sometimes that’s exactly how God intended it to be.

Next, Toby’s son TruDog makes his regular
appearance with a song that will make Apple and Mac fans want to get up and
dance. Won’t say much more than that, but it’s pretty ridiculously fun.

Jamie Grace makes an appearance on the
final track “Favorite Song.” Zephaniah 3:17 says “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will
take great delight in you, he
will quiet you with his love, he
will rejoice over you with singing.” That’s the song that Toby can’t get out of his head, “Like
a lyric to may favorite song, you stay with me all day long…I can’t wait to
hear you sing through me.”

Eye On It is
reflective and even somber at times, and yet somehow TobyMac keeps things
bouncy and fun throughout. This is one of those albums that will just leave you
feeling good after listening to it, in more ways than one. One can’t help but
reflect on the goodness of God, on all the ways he provides all good things for
our enjoyment. This feels like personal reflection from Toby on his life, his music,
the influence he’s had, and just how humbled he is by all God has done in his
life, and during that reflections, he invites us all to do the same. Is this
album worthy of a top spot? Musically and lyrically, I can’t think of any
reason why not. As for what it says about the current state of music and
culture that such an album would make the top spot, all I can think is apparently
there is a need and desire out there that people just aren’t finding a way to
fulfill, and somehow the things this music touches on speaks to those desire
and needs. Perhaps the issue isn’t about how well the church can blend in with
mainstream culture in order to be relevant and to better relate, perhaps it’s
about how we just need to speak forthrightly about how the God of the Bible is
the answer to what people are looking for, and we as the Church just need to
present that as plainly and honestly as we can with all humility.

Score: 6 of 7

A special thanks to
Parchments Bookstore for providing this album for us to review. Learn more
about them at (505) 344-2728, or like them on
Facebook.