AI rapper FN Meka was… created by E.Town Concrete vocalist
As you may have heard, one of this week's biggest and weirdest stories in the music world is that Capitol Records has signed an AI rapper, FN Meka -- who was already a star on TikTok (with over 10 million followers) and whose debut single "Florida Water," features Gunna and Fortnite streamer Clix, making him reportedly the "world's first" AI rapper to sign to a major label -- and then dropped him following the controversy surrounding his use of the N word and for making light of police brutality. The New York Times' Joe Coscarelli shared a statement from Capitol, which reads:
CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately. 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.
Meanwhile, if you're wondering about the actual humans that created FN Meka, it turns out his co-creator is -- wait for it -- none other than Anthony Martini, the same Anthony Martini who fronts NJ rapcore vets E.Town Concrete. Martini's worked with the industry side of things for a while, first as an artist manager at Ferret Music and then at Crush Management, and he was a partner at Jingle Punks Music, and in 2019 he co-founded the "virtual label" Factory New with Brandon Le, and together he and Le created FN Meka.
In an interview with Music Business Worldwide, Martini talked about FN Meka's origins, calling traditional A&R "inefficient and unreliable" when it comes to developing talent, saying, "Now we can literally custom-create artists using elements proven to work, greatly increasing the odds of success."
Speaking more about the AI that powers FN Meka, Martini said:
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: lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds, etc. We then combine these elements to create the song.
As of now, a human voice performs the vocals, but we are working towards the ability to have a computer come up with and perform its own words – and even collaborate with other computers as “co-writers”.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Martini compared FN Meka to artists like Marshmello and Gorillaz, saying, "You look at any great human artist, the more fantastic you are, the more of a character that you are. Any great artist, you’re buying into some sort of story. This is just the next level of actually doing that. There’s been some precedents in the past, even for pseudo virtual characters. You can look at Gorillaz. You could look at a guy like Marshmello—he’s not real for all intents and purposes either. He could be a digital being too and it wouldn’t make a difference to the fans of the music. We’re trying to blur those lines even more and trying to bring everyone to the future."
Meanwhile, E.Town Concrete still play the occasional show, and they've got Furnace Fest and a few other dates coming up, including a home state show at Starland Ballroom on 10/8.
As Pitchfork points out, activist group Industry Blackout posted a statement urging Capitol to drop FN Meka, hours before they did. It reads:
It has come to our attention that your company has decided to partner with Factory New on signing the artificially designed ‘rapper’ FN Meka. 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. 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.
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. 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.
We demand this partnership be terminated, a formal public apology be issued, FN Meka removed from all platforms. Furthermore, all monies spent by Capitol Records and Factory New for this project will be allocated to charitable organizations that directly support Black youth in the arts, as well as marketing budgets for Black artists signed to Capitol Records. We look forward to your response and compliance.
If you'd like to know what FN Meka sounds like, you can check out "Florida Water" below.