- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2002

Several young Christian bands have been climbing the Billboard charts lately, including Creed, Lifehouse and P.O.D., and are gaining more attention for their music than their religious faith.
If only the road to stardom had been as easy for the members of DC Talk, who were long pigeonholed as "gospel music" outside the mainstream world before gaining a hit with 1995's "Jesus Freak." Though the group has been together nearly 15 years now, sold millions of records and even won a Grammy, it still has trouble shaking the gospel label.
Incidentally, the DC in the band's title, which now stands for "decent Christian," once was a shout-out to the group's District roots. The trio returns home tonight to the George Mason University Patriot Center in Fairfax.
Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait and Kevin Max Smith all met at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., but Mr. McKeehan and Mr. Tait may have crossed paths before without knowing it. "We went to rival high schools," Mr. Tait says via phone. "He was on the basketball team and I was on the glee club, so we didn't really know each other."
At Liberty the three became friends through a mutual love of music and formed DC Talk in the late 1980s. During the course of six studio albums and one live record, the trio made a big splash with young Christians but failed to leave much of a dent in the secular marketplace.
That all changed with the song "Jesus Freak," from the band's 1995 best-selling album of the same name. The group had melded hip-hop with gospel-tinged rock before, but "Jesus Freak" added grunge to the band's musical palette.
Although "Jesus Freak" and the follow-up, "Supernatural," gained the band even more fans and mainstream recognition, the three were looking for something new by the time 2000's greatest-hits package, "Intermission," was released.
"We want to evolve until we dissolve," Mr. Tait says. "Every record has been drastically different than the one before."
As a result, the three members decided to undergo separate solo projects, which differ wildly in style.
"It was something we all wanted to do," he says. "It's been a beautiful fun ride for all of us."
Mr. Tait's band, Tait, released "Empty" this past fall, the most emotionally charged of the three albums. Much of the material stems from his heartbreak over his father's death in 1998, at the peak of the group's success.
"All of the songs have messages, even if they're fun songs," he says.
Mr. Smith goes by Kevin Max on his record, "Stereotype Be," which is the most experimental, and creative, of the three releases.
It brims with world music touches and features stunning guitar work from acoustic rocker Owsley and quirky performer Adrian Belew, who has played with the Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, David Bowie and others. While Mr. Tait's often feel-good pop may stand a better chance of hitting the Billboard charts, Mr. Smith's work will likely age better.
The final release, from Toby McKeehan (here Toby Mac), is "Momentum," which takes all of the hip-hop influences that have been bubbling through the band's previous work and brings them to the forefront.
In tonight's show, all three members will showcase their solo works before headlining as DC Talk. Despite the tour, there still have been numerous breakup rumors.
"We felt like touring together because we thought we would diminish any unbelievable rumors about [the band] breaking up," Mr. Tait says.
Already, Tait has had success on the Christian music charts and Mr. Tait hopes the record will be picked up by a major label.
"It's been hard because people still want to hear DC Talk," he says. "We have to pull DC Talk out of the picture, because if they see us together they can't see us apart."

WHERE: George Mason University Patriot Center, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
WHEN: 7 tonight
TICKETS: $19 to $29
PHONE: 202/432-SEAT

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