Seven-time Grammy-winning Christian hip-hop artist TobyMac will perform Feb. 18 at the Spokane Arena, and he’s bringing along a versatile lineup of talent on his “Hits Deep Tour.”
An 18-year-old rapper with a current single featuring TobyMac, Aaron Cole began his music career at age 3. Born and raised in Bristol, Va., his father had a recording studio in their apartment, and his uncle was a Christian rapper.
“Different artists and singers would come in and out of our apartment, and I just started watching my uncle,” Cole said, in an interview with the Press. “Then they wrote me a rhyme and I started to memorize it.”
He recorded an album at age 4 and was performing at various shows before his uncle moved out of the area.
“I took a break and I was a regular kid,” Cole said. “Then I went to middle school, and from there I found God for myself… from there I just got serious, started writing for myself, and continued opening doors.”
For a middle school kid, the idea of being a Christian hip-hop artist wasn’t exactly popular among his peer group.
“I got picked on a lot, and that’s what led me to… find my validation,” Cole said. “From there I just made up my mind I wasn’t going to listen to what other people would say to me. I had a lot of pushback, you know, hip-hop music about God, but that’s what I’m called to do.”
Eventually his music got into the hands of TobyMac, which led to Cole signing with TobyMac’s Gotee record label at age 14. But Cole said the label didn’t rush him onto the scene. He worked offstage - writing, recording, learning the industry, and, simply, growing up - before making a full career jump.
“I learned so much in those two years in music and in life,” Cole said.
His breakout moment is on the horizon - TobyMac is featured on Cole’s first official single, “Right On Time.” Now on a national tour, Cole is especially thankful of the family support he had from age 3.
“A family like mine coming from really nothing, to see these dreams be manifested… I thank them all the time,” Cole said. “My dad came to the show last night and it was just amazing. My mom has always been there. I’m grateful to have them in my life.
Lead singer for the Nashville-based, contemporary Christian band, Finding Favour, Blake NeeSmith said their band has flourished thanks to the support of TobyMac and the creative team at Gotee Records. Finding Favour had been together for years, but NeeSmith said working on their last two albums, 2015’s “Reborn” and last year’s “Farewell Fear,” with Gotee unlocked more and better music.
“After probably writing 50 songs, we had to whittle it down to eight or nine songs (for an album),” NeeSmith said. “We weren’t great songwriters before so we didn’t have 50-60 songs to choose from.”
NeeSmith knows many other musicians don’t get the level of support Finding Favour receives at Gotee.
“They’ve allowed us to flourish,” NeeSmith said. “We’ve made mistakes and we’ve sent out duds, but they aren’t going to kick us to the curb if you send out a dud.”
The support goes both ways too, as NeeSmith is a co-writer on TobyMac’s latest single.
With a, radio-friendly sound, members of Finding Favour, much like the rest of the acts featured on the “Hits Deep Tour,” break preconceived ideas of what contemporary Christian music should be. NeeSmith said as the band gets older, they’ve continued to write about the important things happening in their lives.
“We write more about our families- our newest record I wrote about my grandfather passing away,” NeeSmith said. “They aren’t always worship songs or about the power of the Lord. Sometimes we write very personal songs, but from a Biblical stance as well.”
“There are songs that hit you from a spiritual standpoint that God is very involved in, but it doesn’t always have to talk about scripture,” he said.
The “Hits Deep Tour” with TobyMac is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The lineup also includes Danny Gokey, Mandisa and Ryan Stevenson.
Tickets are available at SpokaneArena.com. Prices range from $15 up to $69.75. For more information on the acts, visit TobyMac.com or AwakeningEvents.com