Capitol Records cuts ties with FN Meka, the 'virtual rapper' with over 10 million followers, after backlash
- Capitol Records has cut ties with FN Meka, the virtual rapper with over 10 million TikTok followers.
- The decision came after online backlash accusing the creators of propagating anti-Black stereotypes.
Capitol Records has cut ties with FN Meka, the virtual rapper popular on TikTok that the music label signed earlier this month. The decision follows online backlash from musicians, listeners, and activists, some of whom have accused the AI artist's creators of perpetuating anti-Black stereotypes.
The activist group Industry Blackout, for example, issued a statement calling FN Meka an offensive caricature, pointing to the virtual rapper using slurs in lyrics and appropriating mannerisms from black artists. FN Meka's signing had also sparked derision from stars like The Game, who reportedly commented on one of FN Meka's Instagram pictures saying a Capitol Records deal would change a million real human artists' families' lives.
Capitol Music Group, which owns Capitol Records, on Tuesday issued a statement that it would end its affiliation with FN Meka and apologized for the decision to sign the project.
"We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it," Capitol Music Group said in its statement to Insider.
FN Meka, who is one of the most popular virtual stars with over 10 million TikTok followers, was created by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le. The duo run Factory New, a record label that says it will only house virtual artists, according to Music Business Worldwide.
FN Meka was the label's first major project. The robot's earliest TikTok videos date back to August 2019. Many of the TikToks feature the cartoonish FN Meka wearing the same green hair and eyes, nose piercing, grills, and a futuristic-looking black puffer jacket. In the clips, he often walks around real spaces and what appear to be animated landscapes.
The Instagram page also features FN Meka posing with a variety of brands, which it does not appear to be officially affiliated with, as well as posting images where the character was incarcerated and being beaten by a police officer in a prison cell. One clip from FN Meka's song "Florida Water" featured the character using the N-word, leading to backlash as Consequence of Sound reported that none of the project's founders are Black.
Virtual influencers have already found viral success for years — Lil Miquela, also known as Miquela Sousa, is a computer generated 19-year-old woman from Los Angeles who has over three million followers on Instagram and TikTok and posts like she's just a regular person hanging out with friends. There have also been immensely popular virtual singers like Hatsune Miku and Yameii Online, whose voices are sculpted using Vocaloid technology, which synthesizes a database of stock human vocals. But FN Meka appeared to be the first time that a virtual character, with allegedly AI generated lyrics and designed to pose as a musician, had signed with a major record label like Capitol.
Although marketed as an AI rapper, Factory New employed a human being to record the character's voice. In FN Meka's song "Florida Water," the virtual musician's vocals are sung by a real person, according to Music Business Worldwide's interview with FN Meka's creator, but Factory New claimed much of the music's content, like the melody, speed, and lyrics, were created through AI technology that analyzed popular songs to find what would be successful.
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