From an early age Mr. Testimony was destined to live his life in front of an audience. But few who knew him would have imagined him performing Street Gospel, a new genre of gospel hip-hop that he created, and that his audience would be anyone who would be saved.
Owen Cowherd, Jr., professionally known as, Mr. Testimony, was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN. Shortly before Owen was born his father was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, which limited his ability to help with Owen’s upbringing. Owen and his mother, Lee Morris, lived in Orchard Park Apartments on the city’s Eastside, a place known for high crime, gang activity, drug abuse and few success stories. Despite their surroundings, Ms. Morris worked to provide Owen with food, clothing, a stable home, and a religious upbringing. The family would often attend church services on Sunday, but religion was not something Ms. Morris wanted to force upon Owen. At the age of thirteen she allowed him the option of choosing whether or not he would continue to attend church services. He did not. Owen did, however, begin to excel in school, particularly in sports. As a youngster he attended Coleman Elementary and Middle School, located just a short walk from where he lived. In 1996 Owen became a freshman at Broad Ripple High School and joined the basketball team. His special talents and skills for the game were revealed almost immediately, and Owen went on to play all four years on the varsity basketball team, eventually leading the city in scoring with an average of eighteen points per game. Upon graduation, Owen tried out and earned a basketball scholarship at Glen Oaks Junior College in Centerville, Michigan. But, having never been away from home for an extended period of time, Owen became homesick in the strange and unfriendly environment and returned to Indianapolis after just three weeks on campus. And, as with most success stories…a little rain must fall.
The following January Owen started taking classes at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). A few weeks into his first semester Owen was involved in a car accident which resulted in him dropping out of school once again. At this point, Owens’ life began to take a turn. Frustrated with having a series of bad things happen to him, in spite of his attempts to do the right thing, he gave in to the temptation of his surroundings and began to sell drugs. This lifestyle continued for several years during which Owen fought a constant battle with his conscience about the way he was choosing to live. It was during this time that he became a father to two children, by two different women. Then tragedy struck – Owens’ cousin, who was also his family’s favorite, was shot and killed. Two months after her funeral Owen was arrested with more than 30 pounds of marijuana. The arrest coupled with the death of a close family member caused Owen to evaluate his life, which resulted in his decision to change. He no longer wanted to do things “his way” but instead, sought after something greater.
Through an act of good fortune that Owen could only attribute to God, his heavy jail sentence was reduced to home detention. During this time Owen became more involved at church and was eventually approached about sharing his testimony. After careful consideration and lots of prayer, Owen realized that he really wanted to share his story, but not in the conventional ways of ministry with a sermon and a pulpit. He wanted to speak through the language he was most familiar with and through the music that he was so fond of – Hip-Hop. Owen had already tried rap, and had even managed his own label, but never as a gospel artist. Following his heart, Owen started writing music for the Lord. He calls his music “Street Gospel,” an anointed form of gospel rap that motivates the listener while delivering God’s word in a fashion that is identifiable on the streets.
Every good rapper has an even better name. For Mr. Testimony there is great significance in his name because it came directly from God. He compares his name change to that of the Apostle Paul. Before he converted to Christianity, Paul, then known as Saul, spent his time tormenting the church and opposing the word of God. After his conversion Saul’s name was changed to Paul and he had a whole new message. Owen felt the same. A new message, a new name, and Mr. Testimony was born.
Mr. Testimony has performed in more than 200 shows, he’s been featured in local and regional television and radio news shows, and has released two albums, “Convict & Confirm” in 2011 and “The Struggle Is Over” in 2013. Mr. Testimony’s music was featured in the 2012 Holy Hip Hop Compilation CD and “My Trials,” the first in a series of three books authored by Mr. Testimony, was published in August 2013. He is an active Seventh Day Adventist and a member of Emmanuel Praise Center, Indianapolis, IN. In addition to writing and performing Street Gospel, Mr. Testimony is a single father of two sons, Isaiah and Emmanuel Cowherd. He is also involved in several ministries and community outreach programs, including the Indianapolis Juvenile Center, the Kentucky Juvenile Center, the IREF Prison Ministry, the National Jesus Inside Prison Ministry and local Stop The Violence efforts.