Not long after announcing that the Capitol label had signed a computer-generated rapper dubbed FN Meka, Capitol Music Group announced that it is severing ties with the project. The move Tuesday came after Capitol came under fire from activists pointing out that the music perpetuated Black stereotypes and included the repeated use of the N-word but was actually the work of a non-Black creative team.
“CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately,” the label group said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “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’ signing of the fictional “robot rapper” had just been announced last week, although the project goes back years as an independent endeavor. The “artificial reality” hip-hop character was described as the brainchild of Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, cofounders of Factory New. Martini — who’s also chief music officer and partner at Slip.stream — said in an interview with Music Business Worldwide that “technically speaking, FN Meka is voiced by a human. But everything else about him — from his lyrics to the chords and tempo underpinning his music — is based on AI.”
The project was quickly attacked for seeming to feed the language and themes of Black street life into a computer that spat out lyrics about themes common to hip-hop, including copious use of the N-word, via the depersonalized tactics of artificial intelligence.
On Twitter, the account Industry Blackout posted a message earlier Thursday reading “Have you lost your FN minds?” The open letter to Capitol Records attached further read, “While we applaud innovation in tech… we find fault in the lack of awareness of how offensive this caricature is. It is a direct insult to the Black community and our culture — an amalgation 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.”
The open letter pointed out that Gunna, who previously participated in an independently released FN Meka track, “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 letter asked for a formal public apology, the removal of the avatar’s music from all platforms and money reallocated to charities benefitting Black youth or further promoting Black artists signed to Capitol.
The singles “Moonwalkin’” and “Internet” had previously generated social interest in the project in 2019, adding up to hundreds of millions of views before the Capitol signing.
The Capitol signing had been announced Aug. 11 in a press release titled “FN Meka, the world’s biggest A.R. rapper, signs to Capitol Records in a global first.” The track released to DSPs that day featured the raux rapper joined by real-life figures Gunna and Clix, a figure in the gaming-stream world, for the song “Florida Water,” released in partnership with Slip.stream. “With over one billion views and 10 million followers on TikTok alone, he is the #1 virtual being on the platform,” the release said.