digital backlash

What’s Going on With AI Rapper FN Meka and Capitol Records?

Photo: Capitol Records

After a short stint on Capitol Records’ roster, AI rapper FN Meka has been removed from its lineup “effective immediately” following backlash online after an insensitive Instagram post from 2019 mocking police brutality resurfaced. The post was eventually deleted by the Meka account (the account was also put on private), but it continued to draw negative attention and criticism, leading Capitol Records to drop them from the label. But what led up to an AI robot getting a record deal? Below is a look at FN Meka’s career and who is behind the controversial account.

Who is FN Meka?

FN Meka is a self-described “Robot Rapper not accepted by this world.” His TikToks show off Louis Vuitton, Rolls-Royce cars, and gold Pokemón cards on chains — all digital, of course. According to Meka creators and Factory New co-founders Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, a human performs the vocals for Meka, the voice most often being Kyle the Hooligan, as revealed by Genius’s Jacques Morel. The AI also collaborates with other AI as “co-writers.” His first TikTok was posted three years ago, and he have over 500,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

How Did FN Get Signed and What Is the Backlash?

On August 12, Capitol Records announced it had signed its first virtual artist, citing him as the No. 1 “virtual being” on TikTok with over 10 million followers. He debuted his first single with the company, “Florida Water,” featuring Gunna (who was incarcerated during the release) and Fortnite player Clix, that same day. After the announcement, people online began criticizing the label’s decision to invest money in virtual artists instead of Black musicians. One Twitter user, Temisan Adoki, tweeted that Meka “represents the complete bastardization, colonization, and whitewashing of hip-hop and total control of Black Music altogether.” Soon after, people began unearthing old posts from the account, including one that depicted Meka being hit by a police officer while wearing an orange jumpsuit.

All of the criticism of Capitol Records escalated on August 23 when the activist group Industry Blackout wrote an open letter to the company calling the artificial rapper a “direct insult to the Black community” for its “amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerism that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics.” They demanded a formal public apology and that the partnership be terminated. Two hours later, Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times shared on Twitter that the record label “severed ties” with Meka after the backlash, according to a statement:

CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effectively immediately. 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. 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.

FN Meka’s music has been removed from all platforms.

What Happens to the Voice of FN Meka Now?

Speaking on Jarvis Johnson’s Twitch stream, Kyle the Hooligan said that he got scouted from the FN Meka group off the work with his crew. He tried to keep the AI music distinct from his personal work. He also was supposed to deny voicing Meka. “We wanted it to be a mystery at the time,” he said. Kyle also addressed Meka on his Instagram. “They came to me with this AI shit and was like would I want to be the voice of it, and I thought it was going to be some collaboration,” he said. “They promised me equity in the company, percentages, all this stuff.” Kyle said he saw the AI’s cancellation as karma. “Use my voice, use my sound, use the culture and literally just left me high and dry. I ain’t get a dime off of nothing, and they got record deals, all this stuff. I wasn’t involved in no meetings or none of that, which is fucked up,” he said on IG. “So, I’m glad they ass got canceled cuz that’s karma for they ass.”

What’s Going on With FN Meka and Capitol Records?