dc Talk's Jesus Freak still relevant 20 years later

by Kelly Ledbetter, |
dctalk.com/SCREEN SHOT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – Among Christian rock band dc Talk's numerous achievements, one of the most significant is their continued timelessness in speaking to relevant spiritual issues, including racial tension in America.

Even though the band's most notable album, Jesus Freak—which astonished and challenged longtime listeners and reached countless new fans—was released 20 years ago in 1995, it continues to fulfill the band's goal to "encourage listeners to question themselves and to seek out truth," TobyMac said on the band's official website.

The Jesus Freak album propelled TobyMac, along with Michael Tait and Kevin Max, into increased mainstream success, in part because of its variety of genre sounds but perhaps also due to the timeliness of its message, particularly that of "Colored People," the controversial song that became one of four from that album to be made into a music video aired on MTV.

Ignorance has wronged some races / And vengeance is the Lord's / If we aspire to share this space / Repentance is the cure

The song emphasizes that God deliberately created people to have a kaleidoscope of skin colors; it challenges listeners to think of each other as fellow humans and not to let ignorance or mistakes disrupt racial harmony today.


Brendan Gallagher at Decent Christian Talk wrote about the major cultural shifts occurring in America as the backdrop against which Jesus Freak appeared. "In 1992, the LA Riots were sparked by the acquittal of officers in the beating of Rodney King," he reminded readers.

"Race was once again at the forefront of the conversation. People were engaged in the debate and more connected than ever before."

With "Colored People" on the radio and television, millions of people heard lyrics witnessing that humans have hurt each other in the past but all nevertheless "depend on a Holy Grace."

According to BREATHEcast.com, "At the time the album achieved the highest first week sales in Christian music history. ...Within 30 days Jesus Freak became a Gold record and as of now stands at Double Platinum," indicating more than two million sales.

"Part of us is message-oriented; another part is entertainment driven," Max said. "Just as we all share the idea of caring and conscience, we also share the hunger to find truth and meaning in life."


Gallagher pointed out the similarity between the headlines today and those of the mid-1990s. "Have we really changed?" he asked. "Have we really reached that Mountaintop that Dr. King spoke of so passionately on the eve of his assassination? If we are honest the answer is no."

The album's popularity speaks to a need for Christian artists to engage with controversial yet essential topics that can help evangelicals communicate the gospel, which is for everyone.

The "Colored People" music video is perhaps even more pointed in its references to humanity's past mistakes than its lyrics are. Not only does the video show people of multiple races, it portrays a variety of genders, ages, abilities, and cultures to demonstrate the beauty of human diversity.

The sound, words, and video reached an unprecedented audience of Christians and non-Christians.

"I'd like the music to make an impact on as many levels as possible," Tait said. "If one person likes the way it sounds, and another likes what the lyrics are saying, both are valid and both are important."

Gallagher noted Jesus Freak influenced how young people interpreted news and current events. "MTV was filtering the discussion down to teenagers who otherwise would have had no clue what was going on," he said.

When so little has apparently changed in the news—which has increased even further in ease of access and distribution—dc Talk's timely message for 1995 is just as timely for 2015.

"We've gotta come together and thank the Maker of us all."