Capitol Records Drops Virtual Rapper FN Meka Following Critics He Was Offensive To Black Artists

By Harmeet Kaur, CNN

When Capitol Records sign so-called robot rapper FN Meka earlier this month touted the move as a new frontier in the music industry.

But just weeks after the black male cyborg dropped his first single under the major label, Capitol Records pushed aside criticism from black music industry professionals who said the virtual persona was fashioned from reductive stereotypes. The company announced on Tuesday that it had “severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately.”

“We sincerely apologize to the black community for our insensitivity to sign on to this project without asking enough questions about fairness and the creative process behind it,” Capitol Music Group said in a statement shared with CNN. “We thank those who provided us with constructive feedback over the past two days. Your input was invaluable when we made the decision to end our association with the project.”

FN Meka hit SoundCloud and social media in 2019, with the songs “Internet” and “Moonwalkin'” and videos featuring a virtual black persona with a partially shaved head and green braids. The avatar has amassed over 10 million followers on TikTok, and sold an NFT of a “super toilet”.

Eventually, it was revealed that FN Meka was a project of Ex factory, a label founded by music industry veteran Anthony Martini and video game artist Brandon Le. FN Meka, generated in part by artificial intelligence but voiced by a real human, was the first of what Factory New hoped would be a roster of virtual music artists.

“It’s not to do philosophy, but what is an ‘artist’ today?” Martini said in an interview last year with The music industry around the world. “Think of the biggest stars in the world. How many of them are just ships for commercial activities?”

FN Meka’s recent signing to Capitol Records, however, has drawn intense scrutiny. One of the character’s early singles “Moonwalkin'” featured the N-word in its lyrics, while a screenshot from FN Meka’s now-private Instagram account showed a post from 2019 depicting the character being beaten by a white police officer in prison.

The non-profit activist group Industry Blackout released a open letter at Capitol Records on Tuesday, calling on the label to drop FN Meka and remove the character from all platforms.

“While we applaud innovation in technology that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault with the lack of awareness of the offensiveness of this cartoon,” the letter read. “This is a direct insult to the black community and our culture. An amalgamation of crude stereotypes, an appropriation mannerism that derives from black artists, complete with insults infused into the lyrics.

The group also demanded that Capitol Records and Factory New direct all funds spent on FN Meka to causes that support young black artists.

Martini defended the virtual character, telling The New York Times that the people behind its creation were “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get – I’m the only white person involved”.

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