Today in “of course, this happened,” AI rapper FN Meka made history by becoming the first robot rapper fired by its record company for racist lyrics. The cartoon rapper powered by artificial intelligence has been accused of offering crass, exploitative, and racist depictions of Black life in its lyrics and videos, in addition to using racist slurs, including the N-word.
In a statement, Capitol Records claimed that the company cut ties with the project “effective immediately.” The company also sent “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.” It’s as if Capitol Records was so preoccupied with whether or not a someone could create a racist cartoon character they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Not that we need to explain what FN Meka is because it’s the world’s most famous AI rapper. But for anyone living under an NFT of a rock, which is just as good and twice as valuable as a real rock, Meka was created by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, the cofounders of the record label Factory New, a term we assume they borrowed from Counter-Strike. Martini and Le, who presumably programmed this thing to entertain Elon Musk and Elon Musk alone, have been developing this character for years, as well as other rappers, including [sigh] Lil Bitcoin. On August 11, they signed a contract with Capitol Records in what was described in a press release as a “global first,” as if entering a contractual agreement with something so stupid was a good, smart thing to do.
“Technically speaking, FN Meka is voiced by a human,” Martini told Music Business Worldwide. “But everything else about him — from his lyrics to the chords and tempo underpinning his music — is based on AI.” We assume this means they can’t offer any parameters, like not being racist. That’s AI for you.
Martini told the New York Times that Meka was voiced by “a Black guy.” He argued that this was not a “malicious plan of white executives,” and in a crystal clear distillation of NFT brain rot, he said that “it’s literally no different from managing a human artist, except that it’s digital.” Furthermore, putting the whole issue to bed, Martini told the Times that Meka was “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get — I’m the only white person involved.”
While this thing has more than 10 million followers on TikTok and comes from one of the most diverse teams you can get, it didn’t take long for Meka and its creators to come under fire. Earlier today, the activist non-profit Industry Black tweeted a statement, calling Meka a “direct insult to the Black community and our culture.”
They wrote, “This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people face real consequences in everyday 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.”
The group demands “this partnership be terminated, a formal apology be issued, FN Meka removed from all platforms,” and “all monies spent by Capitol Records and Factory New for this project be allocated to charitable organizations that directly support Black youth in the arts.”
FN Meka did have a couple of hits, including “Internet” and “Moonwalking.” But they don’t do it justice. People need to see this thing’s glorified Fortnite dances.
Oh, man, so cool. And what about this video of FN Meka in his “hibachi Rolls Royce” that it calls “ho-bachi.” A cartoon XXXtentacion on a date with an AI woman it doesn’t respect? If that doesn’t get the Meka’s Discord server hopping, what will?
Of course, how could we forget this timely video from August 2022 of Meka slicing an Xbox Series X to reveal that, yup, it’s cake! Remember that meme? FN Meka sure did.
There’s also a video of Meka almost getting eaten by a giant Roomba that was posted a day before the contract signing and has nearly a million views, which is pretty good. However, the video of Meka getting off a blue Bugatti jet has more than 35 million views. Apologies to the Bugatti fans, but the Roomba video is much, much better
God, this sucks. We hope this will be the last of these sorts of things and that record companies will go back to having actual artists create fictional acts, like The Archies or Gorillaz. Unfortunately, we have a sneaking suspicion that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of AI rappers.