Capitol Records has dropped AI rapper FN Meka and offered its “deepest apologies to the Black community,” after the virtual celebrity was criticized for perpetuating racist stereotypes. This comes just 10 days after the record label signed FN Meka.
FN Meka is an AI (Artificially Intelligent) rapper who was given the appearance of a Black Male cyborg. He was initially created in 2019 by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, co founders of Factory New, a “first of its kind, next-generation music company, specializing in virtual beings” as performers.
According to Martini, the rapper’s songs are performed by an anonymous Black man, but the music and lyrics are generated by an AI that analyzes popular music. Capitol Records boasted about how he was “the world’s first AR [Augmented Reality] artist to sign with a major label.”
However, within the 10 days that FN Meka was signed to the label, backlash against Capitol Records and the creators of the AI rapper grew due to his use of the N-word in his 2019 song ‘Moonwalkin,’ and an Instagram post that showed FN Meka being beaten by a police officer in prison.
Capitol Records announced on Tuesday that it had “severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately.”
Just hours before Capitol’s statement Industry Blackout, “a unified body of Black people in the industry committed to changing the community,” released their own statement on FN Meka.
“FN Meka is offensive and 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.”
“This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life,” Industry Blackout wrote in their statement to Capitol.
“For example, Gunna, a Black artist who is featured on a song with FN Meka, is currently incarcerated for rapping the same type of lyrics this robot mimics. The difference is, your artificial rapper will not be subject to federal charges for such,” the group explained.
“Some of the early content, now if you take it out of context, it obviously looks worse or different than it was intended,” Martini said when he was asked about the image of FN Meka being beaten by a police officer.
“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,” the statement read.
Back in 2021 Martini, who is white, and Le, who is Asian, explained how they were working on making FN Meka fully AI, meaning he would no longer need a human as a voice.
“As of now, a human voice performs the vocals, but we are working towards the ability to have a computer come up with and perform its own words – and even collaborate with other computers as ‘co-writers’,” Martini said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.