A rapper built with Artificial Intelligence is sacked for reproducing racist stereotypes

A rapper built with Artificial Intelligence is sacked for reproducing racist stereotypes

The creators of FN Meka have defined him as "a rapper robot that this world does not accept". And indeed he has been. This virtual product, built by the company from which it takes the F and the N of its name (Factory New) was signed and also fired, in a few days, by the prestigious record label Capitol Records (owned by Universal), home of Paul McCartney or Katie Perry. In a statement, Capitol has said it is "cutting ties" and apologizes to the Black community for the "insensitivity of signing on to this project without asking enough questions about equality and the creative process behind it."

FN Meka has a TikTok account with 10.3 million followers in which a computer-generated character appears with a black profile, green-dyed dreadlocks, green contact lenses, sportswear and flashy gold pendants. In the videos, he has performed challenges, bragged about his wealth — a diamond-studded toilet, a gold and diamond necklace inspired by Fortnite or Baby Yoda — and flaunted sports cars. There are 180 videos, the most recent created with Augmented Reality to place the character in real scenarios, in which he delves into the stereotypes associated with rappers.

In his first song released on the same day Capitol's signing, Florida Water, was announced, FN Meka collaborates with rapper Gunna and a professional Fortnite player, Clix. The track is produced by Turbo (Travis Scott's producer) and executive produced by DJ Holiday (Nicki Minaj). One line of the lyrics has not gone unnoticed: "Niggas can't compete" ("Blacks can't compete", using a pejorative word towards people of color). The Anti-Racist Action Collective Industry Blackout issued a statement calling FN Meka an "offensive cartoon", an "insult to the black community and culture", "an amalgamation of crude stereotypes" and "appropriationist mannerisms derived from black artists, complete with lyrical insults". . The single has been removed from all streaming services and the robot-rapper's Instagram account is now locked.

Despite the fact that the account to this social network now has restricted access, a recent capture of a post from 2019 shows a computer generated image in which a policeman beats the FN Meka avatar in a jail cell. The accompanying text reads: "He hits me because I'm not a snitch, I'm not a rat, life in prison is very depressing." Faced with criticism, its creators told the New York Times that "old content, taken out of context, obviously looks worse or different than intended."

Capital thanked the "constructive" opinions that have been sent to him in recent days regarding FN Meka, in which the New York Times music critic Joe Coscarelli, who has followed this story, has been interpreted as an allusion to the statement by the activist group Industry Blackout. That group, focused on the music industry, born in 2020 from the protest that took social media profiles to blackafter the murder of George Floyd.

"This digital portrait is a careless and disrespectful abomination to real people facing real consequences in real life," Industry Blackout says in its brief to Capitol. And then he recalls that the rapper who collaborates on the song, Gunna, "is currently in jail for rapping the same type of lyrics that this robot imitates. The difference is that his artificial rapper will not be subject to federal charges for it." The information published by Industry Blackout is incorrect, since Gunna was accused, along with rapper Young Thug and others, of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which is why he is in pretrial detention awaiting trial. judgment.

One of the founders of Factory New, Anthony Martini, explained to Music Business Worldwide that although FN Meka had been endowed with a human voice —whose identity is unknown— it was created with Artificial Intelligence from a large amount of information extracted from video games and social networks. For lyrics and music they analyzed "a specific genre" and the software generated recommendations for "lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo and sounds". They then combined these elements and created the songs.

According to Martini - a businessman with a background in music as he was the lead singer of the hardcore punk band E.Town Concrete - the signing of real artists and the expenses that this entails is "an old model", where only one percent succeeds. "Now we can literally create custom artists using items that have been proven to work, greatly increasing the odds of success," he explained in that interview.

When Capitol announced the signing, one of its vice presidents, Ryan Ruden, told the aforementioned outlet that FN Meka "is at the intersection of music, technology and gaming culture" and "is just a preview of what is to come." to come".

This factory of computer-created artists is dedicated to building technological experiments. In 2021, he released crypto rapper Lil Bitcoin's debut single titled I Love Bitcoin which was sold as NFT. They are also selling FN Meka as a crypto artist and have been credited with creating a digital work, "a super toilet" which is being sold as NFT for $6,500 (€6,549).

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