AI rapper FN Meka dropped by Capitol over racial stereotyping

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FN MekaImage source, Capitol Records
Image caption,
FN Meka has more than one billion views on its TikTok account

A record label has cut ties with an AI rapper after criticism it contained racial stereotypes, including repeated use of the N-word.

FN Meka is an artificial intelligence musician given the appearance of a black male cyborg.

But Capitol Music Group (CMG) faced a backlash for signing the rapper.

In a statement announcing they had severed ties, CMG offered its "deepest apologies to the black community for our insensitivity".

FN Meka currently has more than 500,000 monthly Spotify subscribers and more than one billion views on its TikTok account.

Its Instagram account, which has more than 220,000 followers, has been made private.

FN Meka's songs are performed by an anonymous black man, according to Anthony Martini who is one of the cofounders of Factory New, a company responsible for the AI.

In an interview in 2021, he said 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".

'Careless abomination'

Before CMG dropped the rapper, black activist group Industry Blackout sent them an open letter saying FN Meka was "offensive" and "a direct insult to the Black community and our culture".

They said it was "an amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics".

They pointed out FN Meka had released a song with the rapper Gunna, who is currently awaiting trial in the US on criminal charges - with lyrics and social media posts being used as evidence.

"[He] 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," they said.

"This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life."

Media caption,

Imogen Heap: How AI is pushing music creativity

Industry Blackout demanded a public apology and for the AI rapper to be removed from all platforms.

They also want any profits generated to go to charities supporting black youth in the arts and to black musicians signed by CMG.

Speaking to the New York Times on Tuesday, before FN Meka was dropped, Mr Martini said he was anticipating it would happen due to "clickbait headlines".

After being asked about an image of FN Meka being beaten by a police officer, he said: "Some of the early content, now if you take it out of context, it obviously looks worse or different than it was intended."

In their statement to Radio 1 Newsbeat, CMG also admitted to "signing this project without asking enough questions".

"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," they added.

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