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Capitol Records severs ties with AI rapper FN Meka amid backlash over racial stereotyping

The major label has issued a statement offering its “deepest apologies to the Black community”

FN Meka

Capitol Records has severed ties with the "AI rapper" FN Meka amid backlash over racial stereotyping.

The major label announced the signing earlier this month, releasing FN Meka's single 'Florida Water' and claiming he is the "No.1 virtual being" on TikTok while being the first "AR artist" to sign with a major label. FN Meka, a character with the appearance of a Black male cyborg, was created in 2019 by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, the cofounders of Factory New.

Following the signing announcement, the project began to draw criticism after clips were shared online of the AI rapper using the n-word in the 2019 track, 'Moonwalkin'. People also pointed to a post made through FN Meka's Instagram account that depicted acts of police brutality against the character. 

Yesterday (23rd August), the activist group Industry Blackout released a statement demanding that the Universal-owned label terminate their contract with FN Meka, outlining a "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." 

The statement went on to describe the digital effigy as "a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life".

They highlight the case of Black artist Gunna, who is featured on a track with FN Meka while being incarcerated on charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO); the same as Young Thug.

Industry Blackout also called on Capitol Records and Factory New to donate all profits generated from FN Meka to charities supporting Black youth in the arts and to Black musicians signed by Capitol.

Capitol Records released a statement shortly after, in which the label apologised to the Black community for not “asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it".

“CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately,” wrote the label. “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.”

In a 2021 interview with Music Business Worldwide, Anthony Martini said that, while FN Meka's vocals are performed by an anonymous human, the music and lyrics are created using AI. "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," he said. "Lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds, etc. We then combine these elements to create the song."

FN Meka's official Instagram page has since been made private, while ‘Florida Water’ has now been removed from streaming platforms.