A week ago, headlines were full of news that Capitol Music Group had signed a digital rapper named FN Meka whose lyrics were generated by artificial intelligence. Now, after much backlash and criticism online, Capitol Music Group is undoing that decision, instead firing the rapper with a profuse apology for offending people in his platform decision. many have criticized it as an example of “digital blackface.”
The initial signing was announced with the release of a song called “Florida Water,” which featured hip hop artist Gunna along with, oddly enough, a 17-year-old. Fortnite ProClix. Clix is signed to RG Esports and reportedly made $162,000 in the Fortnite World Cup. However, when the single came out, there was a lot of confusion about Clix’s actual involvement in the project. After all, if you listen to the song, it seems like Clix’s voice never appears. However, all the promotional material for the songs did not only mention Clix: his name appeared before that of Gunna and FN Meka, the performers.
Clix’s manager tells him Kotaku that Clix “selected” the track, meaning that he acquired the rights and released the copyright after Gunna had already rapped on the song. However, the funny thing here is that Clix’s manager claims that Clix never wanted FN Meka to be involved in the first place.
“Capitol Records said that if you want Gunna’s song released, you have to let them put your artist Fn Meka on,” he said in an email. “It was never what he wanted and he expressed that opinion, but the label told him this was the only way to go.”
Capitol Records did not respond to a request for comment. After prominently featuring the song on his social media via pins, Clix appears to have removed it from immediate visibility.
All this comes from the hand of Capitol Records distancing itself from FN Meka, the New York Times reports. In a statement provided to the times, the company said the following:
We offer our deepest apologies to the black community for our insensitivity in signing off on this project without asking enough questions about fairness and the creative process behind it. We appreciate those who have reached out to us with constructive feedback over the last few days – your input was invaluable when we made the decision to end our association with the project.
The backlash has to do with concerns about racism and, as NYT says so, “digital blackface.” The rapper, who has 10.3 million followers on TikTok and was explicitly marketed by his creators as an act “at the intersection of music, technology, and gaming culture,” appears to be coded black despite not being , you know, royal. But there is a larger question about how much artistic control black artists really have over the overall FN Meka project. the New York Times The article states that while FN Meka is in fact voiced by a black male, things like “lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds” were partially derived from artificial intelligence. At the same time, supposedly, only one white man is involved in the act of FN Meka.
Some of the criticism is rebuffed by the music professionals cited in the article when they imply that modern musicians are often basically commerce-driven puppets who do and say what they are told. So the thinking seems to imply that maybe it should be enough that there’s a black artist involved, even if it’s not the real engine behind the IA rapper. But the fact that FN Meka’s production is aimed at gamers and very explicitly uses gaming aesthetics certainly complicates things, especially when it comes to Fortnite.
Battle Royale has been criticized in the past for not include or adequately compensate the black performers who created the dances which were brought into the game as purchasable emotes and helped the shooter explode in popularity. Fortnite has since made efforts to rectify thisbut ultimately, it’s just another in a long line of pop culture phenomena that wouldn’t exist as they do without the unseen contributions of black creators.
Also, FN Meka’s attempt to bridge the gap and make digital rap cool relied heavily on games’ willingness to absorb black culture. When FN Meka brags about his riches, he’s not just showing off cars and planes that look like something out of a video game. The vehicles are all covered. with custom gamer chairsinstead of flexible leather you would expect from these boasts. Sound effects that FN Meka presents in his videos quit games like solid metal gear. FN Meka will take the time to cut into an Xbox Series X that is revealed to be a cake. FN Meka, whose green glow is reminiscent of Razor products, enters the scene to promote their new song by setting up a Fortnite battle bus. FN Meka will fight your enemies with a aura imitation energy sword.
And FN Meka has AI that commands him to say the n-word, along with videos showing him being beaten up by a police officer in prison. These are not unrelated things. They were calculated and they worked. FN Meka’s videos have amassed millions of views.
“Some of the early content, now if you take it out of context, it obviously looks worse or different than it was intended to,” said Anthony Martini, founder of Factory New, the company behind FN Meka. New York Times.