A Winnipeg Christian hip hop artist is making a comeback after health issues sidelined a climbing career.

Kevin Manness, also known by his stage name Messanjah, started his rap career in the early 2000s.

"18 years ago I had been a DJ for eight years. But I wasn't really serving God in that time." Manness says that in 2000 he had a conversion and committed his life to serving God. It was at that time that he started his hip hop career.

"Basically what happened was God says, 'give me your best, and I'll give you mine. I'll go above and beyond all you may think or ask.' So I put a song out and within six months that song was on the radio."

The response continued positively and Manness was soon opening for acts like P.O.D.  He performed in a group with Winnipeg's Fresh IE called Resurrection and Life. 

Illness, addiction, death, and new life

The group toured until Manness' health issues took over. He says that he began struggling with his health when he was 16, and then in his twenties, it worsened.

"I got an infection in my sinus cavity that I had struggled with for a long time. And the infection moved into the bone in my face and my jaw. It started eating my jaw and my forehead."

As he struggled with his health Manness says that he turned to painkillers to deal with his pain. Soon he would find himself addicted to painkillers like Oxycodone. 

Manness would find his way back to God and healing from his addiction through the death of his mother four years ago.

"She had a brain tumour. And for a year (before hear death) we had all been praying and believing that she would get healed."

As his mother battled the disease Manness wrote a song for his mother. "It was probably the first time I had written anything in about 15 years. It was a song for her to fight, called 'Psalm 2' . . . that was a song I wrote for her to fight against that cancer."

When his mother passed away Manness says that it "rocked my world." But, it became the catalyst for him to fight against his own struggles.

"I was still addicted on Oxy all that time. I was like 'that's it, I'm not doing this anymore . . . that's where this album came from. Because my faith was rocked. I didn't believe the Word, I didn't have faith in the Word. But I said, 'You know what? I have a choice to make. I can either wallow in this pain and remove myself from this calling on my life even more, or I can picture what I want this calling to be and start speaking that.

"So I took the Word of God, whether I didn't believe it or not, and I started speaking it. So I started writing these songs for this album based on what I wanted to see, not based on what my circumstances were."


That project became Messanjah's latest album, Hallelujah

Manness hopes to be able to use his music to reach people with the truth of Scripture and Christ's love, no matter how young or old they are. 

"I will play for one or for 5,000 people. And I'll play the same way for one as I play for 5,000 . . . if you've got one kid, or one adult, or even a senior citizen who needs to hear some Word and some high energy hip hop to go with it, give me a call.

You can find out more about Messanjah at www.messanjah.com