Re-printed with permission from Elect Magazine, Chicago, IL
Written by: Tempestt Coleman
Representing the Bahamas, rapper Manifest is a sure force to be reckon with in the music industry. Fusing Reggae and Hip Hop with a Christ mes-age, Manifest is not only giving you feel good beats and clever rhymes, but life changing words of hope, love, practical living, faith and community. This man of God not only raps about life but what he lives. Elect chats with Manifest about his humble beginnings, the message in his music, and his very bright future ahead.
Elect Magazine: For those unfamiliar with your sound and the type of music you do, can you describe it to them?
Manifest: Basically my sound is closer to the Rap, Hip Hop style, but obviously from the Bahamas, the place where God lives. (laughs) I originated my music with a Hip Hop style, so I like to call it Caribbean Hip Hop. So you get that raw Hip Hop flavor, but it would be intertwined with Reggae beats, vocal music , and Junkanoo.
E: Now what is Junkanoo?
M: Junkanoo is a festival that happens every year in the Bahamas. It started from slavery. Once a year the slave owners would allow their slaves to go out during Christmas to celebrate and just have a free day. The slaves would get goat skin drums, cow bells, and whistles and create an African rhythm and just celebrate as they marched around their properties. Over the years, after slavery was abolished in the Bahamas, the celebration continues. It has grown to a point where now it is an annual festival every Christmas day and every New Year’s day. The festival brings together the entire country, and there are several categories and groups that compete against each other through music. We have costumes, very colorful costumes. It’s indigenous to the Bahamas, and recognized around the world. So, that’s basically what it is, an African rhythm type of music; a celebratory music. And sometimes in my music we fuse Junkanoo with Hip Hop.
E: So I was listening to some of the music on your website and one of my fav’s is “Good Times” That’s my joint. But I can actually hear the sound you just described in some of your tracks. So, now when did you discover that music was what you were called to do?
M: Well, growing in one of the islands here in the Bahamas, and going to church, my brother and I would always rap to my mom while in church. We would listen to The Fresh Prince before he started acting, and DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Run DMC. We had all the records, and a little bit over time I began to go to talent competitions and school competitions as well. My love for, not only Rap, but music in general began to grow, and one of the first experiences I had recording was with an answering machine. I took a Kriss Kross beat and recorded it on the answering machine, then I flipped the tape over to record vocals. I realized that from that time my love for music and my drive to get it done was very huge. I realized that music was something that I was called to do.
E: Were you ever faced with the decision to just do secular music or was it automatic to do it with a Christ message?
M: It wasn’t automatic. On an unprofessional level, it was more secular, but my music was always positive because of my background. I always had God in my message. Growing up, I lived in church, and like many secular artists to date, they got their start singing in the church choir or singing in church, and then they just branched off. That’s basically how I started. The difference then is that, I did have God in my messages. I always stayed positive because of my background and what my parents brought me up in, and I just wanted to speak about what I knew. As I grew older, I learned more about God. I learned more about His Word and the truth, my message and my method in Hip Hop and music changed, and that’s when I got more involved with more Christian based music and reaching people through Hip Hop.
E: I love the name Manifest. How does it represent you as an artist?
M: Manifest came about in 1996 when I initially got involved professionally in music. I kept asking the Lord to show me what He wanted for me as a name; a name that would stick, a name I could hold on to for life and not change. And the Lord just took me to the Bible because I read the Bible a lot. I was looking through the Bible and just saying, “Lord, just show me a name. Show me a name.” And the first name I came up with was Manifold. I was like wow this sounds interesting. So, I looked up the meaning , and right under manifold in the concordance in the Bible was the word manifest. It jumped right into my spirit, and I looked up the word and it said, “To be clear, clear sighted, focused on God, and to make things become.” So, the Lord automatically told me that’s it! I prayed about it and I decided to move forward in my professional career as Manifest.
E: So tell me about "His Life, His Mic". Is it much more different from your two prior albums? What makes it different from the other two?
M: His Life, His Mic is definitely the greatest album that I have written to date. I don’t think that it will be the greatest, because I think my next album is going to be even better, but I think to date it’s hands down some of the greatest material that I’ve ever written. It's definitely different from my first two albums in a sense that the first album was Manifest sort of coming out of the box as a new artist. The second was a little more bit developed. I was settled in the craft and settled in who I was. I had more depth and knowledge in God. The third album is different because my entire style changed. I got married and I had a son. Those experiences were reflected in my music. I had also got more involved in not only the music side but the business side of music. "His Life, His Mic" reflects who I am as a person, but also the life of Jesus Christ, the “mic” of Jesus Christ. So that’s where I am in my ministry at this point. So, I think that the message and method portrayed in this album is just phenomenal.
E: Being the founder of Dunamus Sounds Records, how is the experience running a label? Why did you decide to tackle that?
M: When I got started professionally, I had the frustration of being a new artist and not having funding, going into the studio and being on a time limit, and being a new artist and no one wanting to help you. I had a heart to help people, and I promised myself and God that if I ever had the opportunity or the resources, if I see an artist that needs help, I would help them. And that’s sort of how the record label developed. As I recorded and traveled around the world doing different projects in the studio, I would watch the guys and see what they do, and I would come back home with my equipment and mimic them. So, it evolved into a label. I would just call a bunch of artists to come and record some tracks. I just wanted to impart into other artists and young people, and it just evolved into a label.
E: So, I can send you a demo? Because I rap. (Obviously joking. Manifest gets the joke and laughs.) Now bringing your music to the States; how has that process been?
M: I’ve had a lot of success in the U.S. Mainly because here in the Caribbean is more Reggae style, even though my name is a household name in the Caribbean, I think that the States is more of a breeding ground for Hip Hop. It’s been tremendous over the past years. I’ve been traveling throughout the U.S. I’ve met with a lot of artists, and I’ve collaborated with a lot of artists. The journey and the process has been going well.
E: How do you balance your family life, your music, and business?
M: Well, a lot of people experience problems in their marriage because of that same word, balance. There are times in my day that I shut off everything, and just spend time with my son, my wife, my family. We have family time. We turn off phones and emails, and spend time as a family. We watch Fresh Prince. Those are the moments in our marriage and in our family that keeps us close and growing as a family.
E: What’s your perspective on “Holy Hip Hop”? Is it a form or style of music that’s necessary and effective to you?
M: I think that Holy Hip Hop is necessary. Back in the day when I was growing up, if I didn’t have an alternative, then I would have been listening to the Jay-Z’s and the Eminems. So, because I had the Cross Movement, I had Enoch, Ambassador and those guys, that allowed me to develop as an artist. As it stands with myself, I think that on the other side, at times it can limit you and put you in a box. Of course my music is holy. Of course my music is Christian, but I don’t necessary call my music “Holy Hip Hop”. I call it Hip Hop and the reason why is because in the beginning God created everything. The devil didn’t create anything. Some people say, “We’re taking Hip Hop back, or we’re taking the music back.” That’s fine, but since God is the Creator then we have leadership in that, and if I am a Christian, the messages I speak of are messages of God because musically a C flat is a C flat, saved or unsaved, however it is the artist that makes that C flat Godly or ungodly. I believe that as a Christian, it is my duty not only to talk about Jesus and His twelve disciples, but it is also my duty to talk about love. Because if I don’t speak about love, there’s going to be a secularized view of what love is in the wrong way. If I don’t talk about being a father to my son, there’s going to be someone talking about how many babies they have and being a baby daddy. So while it’s necessary for Holy Hip Hop, it’s also necessary for Christian artists or artists who are Christian to speak about messages of love, family, tithing, and being a good steward, not being overly spiritual. Sometimes there is a need to be practical and meet people where they are, showing the positive and a true alternative of who God really is. And I’m not taking away from those who may disagree. I’m just speaking for myself. I believe that God had called me to reach out to a person that has no hope. Some people overlook the practical living aspect. It amazes me how people overlook and may deem it unspiritual when everything from practical to natural to spiritual living and experiences is in the Word of God. It’s in the Bible. The Word addresses every possible thing a human being can go through in life. And one thing I also want to say on that note when God gave me that revelation. Here I am early in my career as a young Christian with the perspective of every song has to have Jesus Christ, and the perspective that I have to reach the world because I’m doing this Gospel music, and I’m still doing this Gospel music but there’s a different approach now. Back then I was doing this music and I was like I gotta reach the world. I gotta reach the world for Jesus Christ, and every radio station that was not a Christian station wouldn’t play my music because every song had Jesus in it and the songs were not practical or relevant to them where they were at. They wouldn’t play it. Then God gave me this revelation on how to be wise as serpent but as harmless as a dove, and apply this to my music. Here’s what happened, the stations I was trying to reach on my first two projects started to open up to me. Two of my singles were number one on the number one radio station here in the Bahamas for several weeks. That never happened before. As a result of that, all of the secular artists started to contact me and say, “We hear you on the radio. Your music sounds good. It really blessed me and it touched me.” A lot of the secu-lar artists came to me and said, “Look man, we want you to mentor us.” That was the key for me. The key was that they asked, “Man, how do you do it?” Then I take them and say, “Hey, here’s how you do it. You gotta read the Bible. You gotta go to church.” A person that has a wall up is harder to reach than a person that’s broken, open, and willing to receive the message in a different method. He showed me that revelation and God has been doing a lot of stuff in using my music in that way.
E: Tell us about Truth Hip Hop Fest.
M: Truth Hip Hop Fest is an annual summit that we put on which sensitizes the public to what Hip Hop is and that's the path that God has me on now. Additionally, it is for artists and lovers of music who want to know more about the business side of music because in the U.S. and especially in the Bahamas we have a lot of artists that say, “Man I’m a good writer. I’m a good artist, but I don’t know anything about the business.” They ask what do they have to do, and we ask if they’ve signed up for ASCAP or BMI. Are you affiliated with these companies as writers? They respond, “No.” “Well are you affiliated with them as producers?” “No.” It’s not only a conference but its a workshop on how to be better. I always use this parable in the Bible with artists, when Jesus spoke of when servants were given money or talents and one took it to the bank, one buried his, and the other multiplied it. I compare this to the business side of music because if God has given us talents in which we can generate money from our talents, and we take our talents and bury them, we are like wicked servants. We have not multiplied it. How do you multiply it? You sign up for ASCAP, because every time your music is played, you get paid for it. The more our music plays, the more we are paid, and not only do we include the listener and the world, but we’re able to pay more tithes. We’re able to give more. So, I do not want to be called a wicked servant. Even with social media, it would be a disadvantage for Elect Magazine not to be on Facebook. I believe that if you’re not on Facebook than who are you reaching. You may be reaching a certain amount of people, but then there is another amount of people that you are not reaching. We have to utilize every avenue that the devil has tried to take control of. It’s a huge part in preaching and reaching, bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
E: What’s going on in the future?
M: There are several dates for the tour coming up that you can find on the website. We’re gearing up for the album because it isn’t out yet. So once the album is here, I’m going to be in full gear and I’m looking forward to reaching and touching as many as I possibly can.
E: Absolutely! We look forward to it as well. Anything you can say to a young artist having the desire to do music, but not knowing the next step?
M: I would say one of the greatest things that I’ve ever done that changed my whole life and my whole perspective was reading through the Bible. Whether you are saved or unsaved reading through the Bible is a great thing. The messages and the revelation in the Word of God is phenomenal. Whether you are reading the Bible to develop your Christian walk or just out of curiosity, reading the Bible regardless is a good thing. Also keep God at the center of everything that you do.