FN Meka is the first virtual rapper signed to a major label. Capitol Records recently announced signing the “AI-powered robot rapper”. The record label is part of the biggest of the three major labels, Universal. FN Meka has amassed over ten million followers on Tik Tok since starting out in April of 2019. His first single was released August 12, 2022.
Update (August 24, 2022): According to a new report by the New York Times, FN Meka has been dropped by Capitol Records after growing backlash. Industry Blackout, a movement to strengthen the rights of people from the Black community working in sports and entertainment, had posted an open letter, in which they accused Capitol Records of being unaware “how offensive this caricature is.” They further stated that “[FN Meka] is a direct insult to the Black community and our culture.” Shortly after, Capitol Records issued a statement with a public apology. They went on to declare that ties with the FN Meka project had been severed, effective immediately.
FN Meka: First AI rapper
Back in April 2021 Music Business Worldwide first reported on the AI rapper. At that time, FN Meka already had over nine million followers in Tik Tok. His videos had been watched over one billion times.
The rapper/avatar was developed by self-proclaimed first virtual record label “Factory New”. Co-founder Anthony Martini explained in an interview with Music Business Worldwide that FN Meka is the result of gathering “thousands thousands of data points compiled from video games and social media.”
In addition, almost everything about FN Meka’s music is virtual and generated by algorithms. Martini further explained that Factory New uses a proprietary AI technology to analyze pop songs. Through this, lyrics, chords, melodies, tempo and even sounds are generated. The label then creates songs based on these suggestions.
Virtual artist – real vocals
The only human contribution to the tracks are the vocals. But it comes to no surprise that Factory New is already working on something in this department. According to Martini, his company is getting close to readying artificial vocal technology that sounds convincing enough to be used in a song. There are a number of advantages of signing a virtual artist, Martini further explained. He is never sick and always on time for concerts. He or she never ages. That way fans will be able to maintain their initial connection much longer.
In addition, a virtual artist and its avatar will be owned in its entirety by the record company. Martini used the recent public war-of-words between Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun as a counter-example. A virtual artist would never engage in any public negativity. Also, any type of brand cooperation can be guided and decided by the record company. Which seems to be part of Capitol Record’s thinking. The record label is part of the world’s biggest major label Universal and houses heavyweights such as ABBA, die Beastie Boys, Halsey, Katey Perry, Neil Diamond, Paul McCartney and Sam Smith.
FN Meka’s first release “Florida Waters” on Capitol Records came out on August 12, 2022. The track is a collaboration with US rapper Gunna, whose last two albums both shot to number one on the charts, and professional Fortnite gamer Clix. The track was produced by Turbo, who was the producer behind many beats for Travis Scott, Young Thug and Lil Baby.
What are your thoughts on this? Is the age of virtual artists upon us? Must bands and other artists fear that no one shows up at their shows anymore? Let us know in the comments!