- 24 Aug 22
"While we applaud innovation in tech that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is," the activist group Industry Blackout stated.
News that Capitol Records had signed a "A.I.-powered robot rapper" was met with both confusion and condemnation this month. In response to growing criticism – including a powerful statement from Black activist group Industry Blackout – the American record label have announced that they have "severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately."
FN Meka – who has 10.3 million followers on TikTok, despite not being a real person – was previously described by Ryan Ruden, Capitol Music Group’s Executive Vice President of Experiential Marketing & Business Development, as “the intersection of music, technology, and gaming culture” and “just a preview of what’s to come.”
“This latest project with FN Meka and Clix, while a first of its kind, is only an evolution of Capitol Records’ 80-year history of innovation," he added.
Despite being voiced by an anonymous human, every other aspect of FN Meka – including his lyrics – is based on artificial intelligence (A.I.). The virtual rapper was originally created in 2019, by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, co-founders of Factory New.
FN Meka – who recently released the single 'Florida Water', featuring real-life rapper Gunna and pro-gamer Clix – sparked outcry after repeatedly using the N-word in songs, and being depicted being beaten by a police officer – despite, as activists have stated, being the product of a non-Black creative team.
Yesterday, the Industry Blackout group issued a statement, pointing out that the "caricature" FN Meka is "a direct insult to the Black community and our culture" – describing the virtual rapper as "an amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics."
"While we applaud innovation in tech that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is," they state.
Industry Blackout go on to note that "this digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real 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," they continue. "The difference is, your artificial rapper will not be subject to federal charges for such.
"For your company to approve this shows a serious lack of diversity and resounding amount of tone deaf leadership. This is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Industry Blackout called on the label to terminate the partnership, issue a formal public apology, remove FN Meka from all platforms, and reallocate all the money spent on FN Meka to "charitable organisations that directly support Black youth in the arts, as well as marketing budgets for Black artists signed to Capitol Records."
Have you lost your FN minds? @capitolrecords @capitolmusic pic.twitter.com/TxbqDhJmv0
— Industry Blackout #IndustryBlackout (@industryblkout) August 23, 2022
Capitol Records issued their own statement just hours later.
“CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately,” the label stated. “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.”