Leading up to the 2020 election, tech giants first sought to silence the voices of conservative influencers, flagging their content and issuing warnings. Even average citizens saw news stories they tried to share censored. Following the election, these fact-checkers ramped up the banning with permanent bans that have included Former President Donald Trump, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, and recently Project Veritas. These social media bans became expected as Silicon Valley sought to silence the voices they did not want to be heard.
On January 6, 2021, these Tech Czars took it upon themselves to begin branching out into the arts. Topher’s song “The Patriot” was first removed. A week later, on January 13, his distributor sent him a message informing that his song was to be removed from all streaming platforms.
When a song is climbing charts, it is usually celebrated and embraced as an artistic success. With “The Patriot”, success was shunned and temporarily halted when the song was banned from all streaming platforms. Communication with both DistroKid and Spotify gave little to no reason for the ban when both Topher and I attempted to reach them for comment and explanation. As a matter of fact, no one has been able or willing to give an answer as to why the song was subject to banning in the first place.
I had the opportunity to speak with Topher recently as we discussed the inspiration for the song that has become a chart-topper on both Apple and Billboard’s Hip Hop/Rap charts. He also shared his story of writing the hit, overcoming the ban, future collaborations, international success as an independent artist, lessons learned, and his take on why the song was so widely accepted and appreciated.
Photo Credit: Ivan Ivanov 1Ivan Ivanov
Inspiring Unity And Change Through The Arts
According to Topher, The Patriot was inspired by the year 2020:
“I’ve seen flags burned, people kneeling for the national anthem, statues disrespected, culture disrespected. I’ve seen people consider the American flag to be triggering or some kind of white supremacist symbol. All that is unnecessary because I feel like a lot of times, people believe you have to burn an entire country to the ground and disrespect the flag to create change. I think you can simultaneously respect the country, respect the flag and our traditions while working towards progress.”
Those events inspired Topher to push to write a unifying song. As a proud Air Force veteran and American, he wanted to give patriots something to be proud of, to give a song “that says, ‘I believe in this country. I believe in the flag. I believe in patriotism and those traditions. I believe in coming together.’” He went on to explain that this song is not meant to be partisan. He intended it to unify all people, “This is not a BLM or Trump song. This is not a Republican or Democrat song. This is not a conservative or liberal song. This is just patriots.”
The intent was not just for Americans, but all people across the globe. “The Patriot” is for the people “that want the government to stop forcing them into liberal policy and just oppressing the people. Like Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere [is a threat to justice everywhere.’] We need to fix it. Lockdowns. Tyrannical governmental powers. That’s every country right now because of the pandemic.” The song was kept mostly neutral so it was not just applicable to Americans. “We didn’t want to exclude anybody. I wanted it to be an inclusive song.”
He went on to explain how he believes culture can be changed through the arts rather than violence and disrespect, “I’m a firm believer in changing the culture through arts and music right now…My hopes are that through my music, I’ll inspire people to run for office and to stand up and go do something positive.”
The Making of A Hit
While in DC for a Women For America First Rally on December 12, Topher was inspired to create a song that was “march worthy” or statement-making. One day while on TikTok, he saw a video of NatiDreddd singing My Mother Told Me and immediately loved the song. After his followers seemed to love the song, he decided it was time to do more with it. He posted an announcement on his Instagram for the producers that followed him, asking if someone would help produce the song. Killavic, a producer and a marine veteran contacted Topher, “he hit me up and said, ‘hey, I did it. I did the beat for you, check it out.” Immediately, Topher knew that was it. He made a video for TikTok with the beat that went viral. He knew it was time to complete the song, so he called The Marine Rapper, he said ‘for sure’ and got me the vocals. Then we got it up. Got the mix. We put it up the next day, and the rest is history.”
Banned, With No Reason Given
Topher released the full song on December 19, 2020. It enjoyed quick success, climbing Apple’s Hip Hop/Rap chart. While he was not surprised by the success of the song, the comments of “I’ve got chills,” and “I’m crying,” did take Topher by surprise. “This song was really pulling and tugging on some people’s spirits and emotions and I didn’t expect it to go that deep.” Those comments made Topher realize that this song was bigger than his own experience. He admits that he had all those people in mind while writing the song, but the reaction was deeper than he expected.
Photo Credit: Ivan Ivanov
The ban was a surprise as well. Spotify was the first to remove the song on January 6th. After getting no response from the company, a week later, Distro Kid informed Topher that the stores received a take-down order. The song was removed the same day, with no reason given for the take-down order, and no indication as to where the order came from. The message from Distro Kid did inform him that if he attempted to reupload the song, he risked his entire music catalog being banned from the streaming platforms.
Photo Credit: Topher
Realizing the ban would hurt their reach and fanbase, Topher and The Marine Rapper (TMR) needed to get the song available for direct purchase. Topher says he immediately called The Marine Rapper and the song’s producer, Killavic saying, “they removed the song from the stores, so we have to go direct. So, we set up the stores online on both our websites, tophertown.com and themarinerapper.com and we’ve been direct since then.”
At the time it was banned, “The Patriot” was wildly popular among conservatives and was climbing charts on both Apple and Billboard. Before removal, the single place #8 on Apple’s All Genres and #1 on Apple’s Hip-Hop chart. The song also claimed #36 Digital Song Sales Charts, #3 Rap Digital Song Sales Charts, and #4 R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Song Sales Charts on Billboard’s charts. Both Topher and TMR proudly shared the song’s success on their social media accounts. The banning of their hit song is also well documented on their pages. Within a day of the ban, the duo started #freethepatriot on social media. Fans sent videos and tagged their accounts as a show of support.
Topher says that the ban was not discouraging,
“I’m used to it. I’m used to fighting an uphill battle. Even when coming out as a black conservative. I’ve faced nothing but scrutiny, criticism, name-calling, derogatory terms, racial slurs from white people, black people, from everybody. All walks of life. I’ve expected that. So when this happened, I was like, let’s keep it moving. I’m one of those people that believes that the successful believe when one door closes, you find another one to open.”
The ban has shown him that even as people hate America, it is still a place of opportunity, even for minorities. “When I hear people saying, ‘I can’t make it because the government this and racism that,” I just look at them and be like, ‘That’s an excuse.’” Even with the censorship and suppression, Topher is an example that American still offers everyone a chance to be successful.
Bigger Than A Banned Song
When asked if there was anything else he would like to add to our interview, Topher wanted to remind everyone that this censorship is bigger than just this one song.
“…as we’ve seen censorship grown, when you start censoring the arts, you start getting into some dark areas and dark territory. Throughout history, when you start tearing down statues, monuments, flags, and comedy and songs, it never leads to a good place. I’ll tell you that. If they can censor our song when it’s clean and positive, and we allow that to happen, it’s pretty much just opens the flood gates to many other artists to be censored. So, we want to be the front line of defense. We want to show them that they can’t cancel us and if they attempt to they’re going to feel the brunt of millions of Americans and people across the world that stand for that justice and stand for that freedom of expression.”
On a personal level, the ban had the potential to cut into his wages as he is an independent artist. He said that he and his collaborators have contemplated “taking some ownership back” by creating their own streaming service to ensure they have a way to get their music out and to make the money they deserve from their art.
“I’m a full-time independent artist, if someone is willing to pull my music, especially when it’s a hit song, that’s cutting into my wages. and I have to feed my family and things like that from my wages. If they’re knocking my song from the stores without cause, without reason, how can I improve or prevent that without feedback.”
Despite the warning from his original distributor, Topher decided to “call their bluff” and re-release the song under a different distributor, Ditto. According to Topher, and as evident by the song’s continued presence on streaming services, nothing has happened other than wild success. The reception has been way bigger than the first release. “If their goal was to suppress, they did it wrong. Reminds me of when they tried to cancel Goya…That’s kinda how this ended up being.” Since the song was re-released, it has climbed to the top spot on both iTunes’ and Billboard’s Hip Hop Charts, with the remix version of the song snagging the second slot on the iTunes chart behind it. In all genres, the song has peaked at number 3. “We went from having one “Patriot” to two “Patriots” taking up the charts.
Theories On The Ban and the Symbolism of the Song
While it was said in a communication with DistroKid that “The Patriot” violated Spotify’s content policy, no follow-up on how was given. With all the music with vulgarity available on streaming services and the lack of responses from them, we are left to theorize about why the song was banned. Topher has two theories. His first is that they want to take song lyrics literally. “All of sudden, when I say, ‘March around the Capitol storm the city gates. Enough with tyranny,’ all of a sudden now, that’s problematic.” The words of the song are symbolic according to the artist, “if you listen to the lyrics and the song as a whole, you can obviously tell it’s a metaphor. Like, putting pressure on their neck until the truth breaks. All walls of corruption, take out all the snakes.”
He went on to explain that other lyrics of the song have symbolism and “Christian undertones” as well. Those are the things that seem to have drawn people to the song and really locked them in according to Topher.
“The first verse is from Psalm 91:7, where it says a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand to your right hand, but they will not come near you. It has the Christian undertone, with the appreciation for our brother and sisters, veterans, in the armed forces. First responders, and things like that. We even talk about fatherhood. Women working and contributing for society. We have no cussing.”
Photo Credit: Ivan Ivanov
His second theory is that his presence near the Capitol on January 6 caused the song to be pulled. “Spotify removed it January 6. That was a few hours after performing near the Capitol. Not at the Capitol, near the Capitol, I think it was right by Senate Park. I think it was with the Veterans for Trump Coalition is where we were.” Topher was very clear that he and those he was performing with were not involved with the events at the Capitol, “We were never involved in anything that went on at the Capitol.”
New Music and Results of the Ban
Capitalizing on both the momentum and motivation that resulted from the ban, Topher released “Circle Back” the first week of February. His album, “No Apologies” was climbing the Apple Music Hip Hop albums chart even before its release. As of Thursday evening, the song was in the number 4 slot. The entire album available on Apple Music now. The ban seems to have done nothing but drive the down-to-earth artist to push out new, message-filled music. All indications are that Topher plans to keep changing culture through music and art