Capitol Records has officially severed ties with FN Meka, the first A.I. rapper to sign with a major record label. The decision comes just nine days after the label announced that it had signed a deal with the self-proclaimed robot, which prompted outcry from critics who called the virtual avatar an amalgamation of negative stereotypes of Black and hip-hop culture.
FN Meka is the creation of Chris and Brandon Le and was initially signed to Factory New, a virtual record company founded by Slip.stream Chief Music Officer and Partner Anthony Martini specializing in propelling virtual characters. The rapper’s voice is a real human, but everything else—”from his lyrics to the chords and tempo underpinning his music”, according to Martini—is based off A.I. technology.
The A.I. rapper has amassed 10 million followers on TikTok with videos in which he flaunts his iced-out jewelry and luxury vehicles, but some of his content has received criticism for being racially insensitive. Critics point to FN Meka’s use of the n-word in his song “Moonwalkin'” as well as a video in which he is beaten by a cop in a jail cell (while wearing an orange Off-White jumpsuit) because he “won’t snitch.”
An AI rapper that says the n-word fabricating police brutality… literally every single thing about this is so off-key pic.twitter.com/9bC7odudlZ
— mitch (@limitedmitch) August 23, 2022
Capitol Records announced that it had signed FN Meka on August 12th. Along with the announcement, the label dropped Meka’s first single, “Florida Water” featuring Gunna, who happens to be incarcerated while awaiting trial for allegedly participating in organized crime alongside Young Thug and affiliates of their Young Stoner Life record label. Following immediate backlash from critics of the project, Capitol dropped the A.I. rapper from the label after just nine days.
“CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately,” the label said in a statement to Rolling Stone. The company went on to issue an apology to the Black community for associating with the project. “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.”
Just hours before Capitol’s announcement, the activist group Industry Blackout released a statement calling for the label to cut ties with FN Meka. Read the full statement below.
It has come to our attention that your company has decided to partner with Factory New on signing the artificially designed “rapper” FN Meka. While we applaud innovation in tech that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is. 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.
This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life. 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.
For your company to approve this shows a serious lack of diversity and resounding amount of tone deaf leadership, this is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
We demand this partnership be terminated, a formal public apology be issued, FN Meka removed from all platforms. Furthermore, all monies spent by Capitol Records and Factory New for this project will be allocated to charitable organizations that directly support Black youth in the arts, as well as marketing budgets for Black artists signed to Capitol Records. We look forward to your response and compliance.