June 7, 2021

Entrepreneurs: Conservative veteran hip hop artist from Mississippi conquers stereotypes, Billboard charts

Therese Apel

Christopher Townsend refers to himself as “a small kid from Kilmichael, Mississippi.” But others — like the Washington Post — have described him as “one of the leading conservative voices on the platform” of contemporary hip hop music.

That kid graduated in a class of 22 after growing up in a single-parent household that dealt with alcoholism, abuse, and poverty. Now he’s known as “Topher,” a Black Christian conservative rapper known all over the country, and he’s graduated to a different kind of class and a different kind of life — that of an artist whose song has topped the Billboard Charts.

Topher is an Air Force Veteran, having logged six years as an intelligence officer for the NSA. The idea for his song “The Patriot” came when he realized he wanted to write a piece that would speak for those who still believe in America from a standpoint of service and patriotism. He looked around as the events of the world unfolded and realized there was a story there to tell. It wasn’t long before he had enlisted help from another military Veteran.

A song is born

“I wanted a very visual representative song and I accomplished it. I posted to TikTok and it went viral and I said, ‘I need somebody else on here that’s gonna help make this thing great,'” Topher said. “So I reached out to the Marine Rapper because he’s the most patriotic person I know. Literally wears an American flag jacket, that’s just what he does.”

The rest is history. In late December of 2020, his song, “The Patriot,” hit the top of the iTunes charts, undoubtedly for its patriotic message and descriptive language painting the discord in the United States as a battle between good and evil. It would peak again on January 6 — the day of the Capitol riots — and would subsequently be taken down and banned on several platforms for the language written months before.

That was a hard pill to swallow for a pair of veteran artists who had fought for the freedom of speech they were being denied, Topher said. The subsequent YouTube video was full of patriotic imagery — groups of veterans, carrying the flag, representing all ways of life. Before long, they were back up and running after they switched distributors, and on February 6 they went #1 for Rap Digital song sales, #2 for R&B/Hip Hop, and #6 across all genres.

Once again, “The Patriot” was headed to the top.

A new anthem for patriots?

Topher’s love for country figures in to everything he does as his music career surges forward without the help of a lot of the usual outside influences, he said. It’s all organic: His music, his video, the production — they’re all his own. He hasn’t received a lot of press nationwide, and he said it seems that media outlets on both sides aren’t sure what to do with a Black conservative Christian rapper who’s putting down tracks outside the realm of the contemporary Christian genre.

“Even on the right side, people still don’t cover my music like that,” he said. “And of course on the left side no one’s covering me at all because I’m– as they say, I’m more effective against the DNC than Watergate. Let me just put that out there, like Watergate has nothing on a black conservative.”

Some have billed Topher’s “The Patriot” as a theme song for patriotic Americans who feel disenfranchised by the politics of the last few years. Some have even said it’s like an anthem.

“An anthem? Right? I’m used to being like, ‘I’m going to make a great song,'” Topher said. “It can go popular on the radio or something, but to create something that so many people have named ‘an anthem’ that they said is right below the National Anthem? Out of all the songs out there they want my song right below that, it’s insane.”

Stopping to reflect

It’s a lot to take in for a Kilmichael guy who pulled himself up by his literal Air Force bootstraps.

“I always give the glory to God, because He had to inspire that. That’s why the first words in that song is inspired by the Bible,” Topher said, alluding to the reference to Psalm 91 that begins “The Patriot.”

“It’s like I don’t know, I couldn’t have done that by myself. I’m just a small kid from Kilmichael, Mississippi that had a dream,” he said.

The world wants to make it political, Topher said, and he doesn’t deny it’s political. But it also has a higher calling to him, one he signed up for when he put on the uniform of the United States Air Force.

“I’m standing for freedom,” he said.

Topher lists among his main influences a really eclectic mix of all kinds of people, including rapper Eminem and Christian author and evangelist Ravi Zacharias. But most importantly, he credits his musical ability to his father, “Little Willie” Farmer, who himself is a veteran blues artist and musician.

“He’s done a lot of amazing things in Mississippi and music is in my blood,” Topher said. “And the reason I wanted to be a rapper is very simple: because I can’t sing. It was just like I can’t sing, so what can I do that’s the next best thing? And that was rapping.”

Breaking the stereotypes while busting the charts

In spite of its success on the digital platforms, Topher said only one radio station has “The Patriot” in its circulation. On Memorial Day, it was played on the Clay Edwards show, shortly before his new hit “Circle Back” was played in full on the air for the first time ever.

Topher said it’s little things like that that make it worthwhile — delivering a message that you can accomplish what you set your mind to, even if people disagree with you.

What I want to do is show people that they’re not alone,” he said. “It’s like some people just really need that feeling to know that not only can you be conservative, you can be cool.”

He’s trying to break the stereotypes of conservatives, yes. But in addition, Topher says he doesn’t like labels at all. They paint pictures that aren’t always accurate, he said,

“They say if you’re conservative you’re some old white rich man, you’re not a young Black guy making hip hop music. So we haven’t done a good job of highlighting that or the diversity within conservativism,” he said. “Because we tend to only paint one picture, and I’m here to just mess that whole canvas up, like, ‘Nope we got a little bit of this over here a little bit of that over there, we’re gonna sauce it up, we’re gonna spice it up,’ and that’s why I do it so people can know that we have a lot more diversity than what is shown.”

‘That’s God, not me’

And maybe it has saved lives, too. A woman contacted Topher recently to tell him that her husband, a police officer, had been in a terrible accident on duty. He had died on the operating table multiple times, and it didn’t look good.

“She said she started playing ‘The Patriot,’ and after she started playing ‘The Patriot,’ he never flatlined again. Matter of fact he started to make a complete recovery from the time she played that song alone,” said Topher. “I know it’s hard to kind of tell people about things like that but she opened up and that was it. It was like, ‘I’ve done my part.’

“I could top the Billboard charts. I could do that, but none of that’s gonna do what this can do. And that tells me that song was bigger than me,” he said. “That’s God, that’s not me. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

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