Capitol Records has “severed ties” with AI rapper and TikTok influencer FN Meka, who became the subject of online backlash surrounding his use of the N-word. Critics also shared an old image from one of Meka’s accounts of the rapper in a scene of police brutality.
“CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately,” a representative of Capitol Music Group said in a statement to The New York Times. “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.”
Capitol Records announced it had “signed” FN Meka on August 14, describing him as an “AI powered robot rapper” and “the world’s first A.R. artist to sign with a major label.” FN Meka’s first single ‘Florida Water’ featured Gunna and gaming streamer Clix.
Just hours before Capitol’s announcement, the activist organization Blackout issued a statement asking for the label to cut ties with FN Meka and calling the project “an amalgamation of gross stereotypes.” It also specifically pointed out the involvement of Gunna, who is currently in jail on RICO charges. Their statement reads:
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.
In 2021, Genius revealed that the creators behind FN Meka are brothers Chris and Brandon Le, who teamed with Factory New co-founder Anthony Martini (of hardcore band E.Town Concrete) to launch the project. Talking about FN Meka’s origins in a 2021 interview with Music Business Worldwide, Martini said:
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. We then combine these elements to create the song.
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-writer.”
In a new interview with The New York Times, Martini said he anticipated the rapper’s cancellation due to “blogs that have latched onto a clickbait headline and created this narrative.” He described FN Meka as “a Black guy” and “not this malicious plan of white executives,” adding that it’s “literally no different from managing a human artist, except that it’s digital.” He also noted that the team behind the project was “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get” and that Martini was “the only white person involved.”