What came was definitely not what Ryan Ruden, Executive VP of Experiential Marketing & Business Development, was expecting: as news of FN Meka’s signing made the rounds,the controversy started brewing. Here was a rapper that did not exist, with a massive online platform, getting an even bigger platform by simply being a caricature of Black artists.
Activist nonprofit group Industry Blackout described the virtual rapper as an “amalgamation of gross stereotypes” that was nothing short of an “insult to the Black community” and culture, which romanticized real issues or mocked them for clicks. FN Meka was the equivalent of virtual blackface, the group said.
This and the online criticism, as well as expectations that the rap community (the real one, this time) would never embrace him, Capitol dropped Meka like a hot potato of pixels. “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,” a statement from the record label says in a statement to the NY Times.
FN Meka still exists, though, and the very fact that he came thisclose to getting his own album from a major record label is significant. FN Meka has been around for almost a year, and in this time, he’s amassed an enviable following online: millions of followers on TikTok and hundreds of thousands of monthly streams. His debut single has been pulled from all platforms, but he is still active on social media.
Created by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, the founders of virtual record label Factory New, FN Meka is voiced by a human, but everything else about him is AI-created: his lyrics, his beats, and the chords. On social media, he invites his followers into his virtual world, which includes outrageous stuff like a hibachi grill in the back of his Rolls-Royce, a Bugatti private jet (with a Bugatti front end and Bugatti seats), and another Rolls-Royce that has a knife instead of the usual Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.
breaking: Capitol Records “has severed ties” with the A.I. rapper FN Meka, “effective immediately,” following days of backlash over the caricature— Joe Coscarelli (@joecoscarelli) August 23, 2022
the activist group @industryblkout called for a formal public apology about two hours ago pic.twitter.com/arkL2OkTjv pic.twitter.com/BjfjLDfpMO
What color is your Bugatti? ????? AirplaneMode - BONES