Less than two weeks after Capitol Records announced a partnership with “the #1 virtual being” on TikTok, the music industry giant has decided to nix the deal.
On August 11, Capitol boasted that it had “signed” with FN Meka, a virtual rapper created and powered by artificial intelligence. The announcement coincided with the release of FN Meka's new single, “Florida Water,” featuring real-life artists Gunna and Clix.
FN Meka had also released two singles back in 2019, “Internet” and “Moonwalkin',” the videos for which garnered millions of views. FN Meka has 10 million followers on TikTok, making him “the #1 virtual being on the platform,” Capitol stated at the time.
But by August 23, Capitol Records had decided to scrap the deal after civil rights groups and other activists took issue with what they saw as racial stereotypes depicted in FN Meka's avatar and lyrics.
In a tweet with the message “Have you lost your FN minds?”, Industry Blackout, a self-described “unified body of black people in the industry committed to changing the community” released a statement condemning the virtual rapper project, claiming it reinforced negative stereotypes about black people.
“We find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is,” the statement reads. “It is a direct insult to the black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics.”
Though the statement does not give any specific examples of such racial stereotyping, FN Meka's lyrics do include repeated use of the N-word, and a few years ago, his now-private Instagram account shared an image depicting FN Meka as the victim of police brutality.
In addition to the racial stereotypes, rapper Danny Brown took issue with non-black industry executives creating a digital rapper with whom real-life black rappers must compete.
“So if he comes up and this does real good, and this is successful,” Brown said on his podcast, “other record labels are going to be like, ‘F*** it, I gotta get me an AI-generated rapper.’ I mean, bad enough we competing with each other. You know how many rappers it is in the world? It’s too many of us! It’s definitely too many f***ing rappers. […] Now you’re telling me we gotta compete with computers, too?”
Capitol Records has since released a statement, apologizing for the project.
“[Capitol Records] has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately,” the label group said in a statement released on August 23. “We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it. We thank those who have reached out to us with constructive feedback in the past couple of days — your input was invaluable as we came to the decision to end our association with the project.”
FN Meka is the brainchild of Factory New co-founders, Anthony Martini and Brandon Le. Though some outlets have reported that FN Meka's voice is also a digital creation, rapper Kyle the Hooligan claimed that FN Meka is his voice rapping lyrics that he wrote.
“It wasn’t no AI,” Kyle claimed. “It was my voice, pitched up.”
“[Capitol Records] promised me equity and a percentage into the character,” he added. “… [But] I never even got compensated.”
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