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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 termination came Tuesday after Capitol came under intense 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.
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.”
FN Meka hit SoundCloud and social media in 2019, with the songs “Internet” and “Moonwalkin’” and videos featuring a virtual Black character with a partly shaved head and green braids. The avatar amassed more than 10 million followers on TikTok, and sold an NFT of a “super toilet.”
PaRappa The Rappa came out in the 90s and was still somehow less offensive.
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.”
— Industry Blackout #IndustryBlackout (@industryblkout) August 23, 2022
You can’t spell Capitol Records without Cap
“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,” Capitol Music Group said in a statement shared with CNN. “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.”