Capitol Records announced they were parting ways with the virtual rapper, FN Meka.
AI artists like FN Meka might not be the future of music… just yet.
Last week, Capitol Records announced that they signed the first “robot rapper” FN Meka to a major label deal. They then debuted his first single, “Florida Water,” which features Gunna and Fortnite player Cody “Clix” Conrod. However, the song and news was not well received, particularly on social media, with users bringing up the fact the Meka — who boasts 10M followers on TikTok where he flexes his private airplanes — uses the N-word and mocked police brutality in an old Instagram post.
Well it seems like the saga of FN Meka is over for now.
On Tuesday, August 23, Capitol Records announced they were parting ways with the virtual rapper. In a statement given to the NYTimes, they wrote:
“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 news came hours before Industry Blackout, a nonprofit collective advocating for more equity in the music business, released astatement calling for Capitol to stop its partnership with FN Meka and release a formal apology.
The character was launched years ago by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le of virtual record label Factory New, a company that says it specializes in “virtual beings.” (They in fact have a whole roster of virtual talent, including Lil Bitcoin.)
In the past, Martini has said the AI rapper — which uses a human voice — is his response to the “inefficient and unreliable” traditional A&R.
“We’ve developed a proprietary AI technology that analyzes certain popular songs of a specified genre and generates recommendations for the various elements of song construction: lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds, etc.,” Martini said at the time. “We then combine these elements to create the song.”
The main criticism around Meka came from Black creators and artists who say that their culture was being appropriated by the AI rapper for white consumption. In an interview with the NYTimes, Martini, who is white, seemed to downplay some of those concerns. Martini mentioned that Meka was voiced by a Black person and that the rapper was not the “malicious plan of white executives.” He also stressed the diversity of his team, “I’m the only white person involved.”
When it came to one of the most troubling images — the police brutality IG post — he said:
“Some of the early content, now if you take it out of context, it obviously looks worse or different than it was intended.”
Ultimately, Martin said, the goal was to see how real artists could experiment with digital avatars:
“How do we break an avatar as if it was a real artist and not a spectacle? It unfortunately turned into a spectacle anyway.”
According to both Capital and Martini, there was no advance involved and no money to be paid back.