After amassing more than ten million followers on TikTok, virtual rapper FN Meka was signed to a label. A week later, things fell apart.
Capitol Records dropped the AI rapper and offered apologies to the Black community following a massive outcry on social media. Many people who responded to the deal felt as though the virtual rapper was perpetuating racist stereotypes about the hip-hop community. The AI rapper was created in 2019 by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, both Co-Founders of Factory New.
Factory New calls itself the “first of its kind, next-generation music company, specializing in virtual beings.” But it seems as though Anthony Martini is distancing himself from FN Meka and Factory New. Martini released an official statement, which you can read below.
“After much consideration, I have decided to sever all ties with FN Meka and Factory New, effective immediately,” the lengthy statement begins. “I joined the Factory New team in early 2020 because I am truly passionate about the future of digital media and felt my background could help fulfill Meka’s potential in the music industry.”
“It’s become apparent that I should have done more diligence before joining. In the past few days, I’ve learned of Kyle the Hooligan’s experience with Meka which is deeply at odds with my core values. I believe that artists must always be at the center of the creative process and must be compensated fairly,” the statement continues.
Martini is referencing the fact that rapper Kyle the Hooligan took to Instagram to explain he was the voice of FN Meka. Kyle says he was never paid a dime for his work on the virtual rapper, and the creators ghosted him after his input.
“I debated making a statement at all, but felt there is some basic info that should be available to clarify the record: I did not create FN Meka, nor did I ever claim to,” Martini’s statement continues. “I discovered Meka online almost a year after ‘Moonwalkin” and ‘Internet’ were released on SoundCloud and after the police brutality Instagram post was already made and joined the team in early 2020 and was named co-founder with my specific focus being business development and artist management. And I take responsibility for diving into a project without comprehensively examining its history.”
“As a manager, my role has always been to create opportunities while the artists on our team lead creative. I’ll always defer to the talent when it comes to how they choose to express themselves and will back them in their vision. I can’t speak for what happened before me, but while I was involved, artists on the project were always compensated fairly and participated in the revenue from their work.”
“I also take full responsibility for the lack of transparency and confusion that my comments about AI elements in Meka’s music may have caused. Those quotes were from a 2021 interview and were meant to create intrigue and provide cover for songs at the time which weren’t ready for scrutiny. FN Meka’s vocals have always been written and performed by humans, which in this case, have been black voices – to be clear.”
“There are many lessons to be learned from this experience and I believe we have opened important conversations about entertainment in the digital age, the music industry, the metaverse, and what art in general looks like in the future.”
“Too many artists never realize their dreams because of the labels put on them by society. The music industry is full of talented singers, rappers, and producers who never get a shot because a corporation doesn’t think they have the ‘right look’ or are ‘too old’ or ‘not marketable enough.’ Whether it’s prejudices they face or simply the artist not feeling comfortable with the body they were born in, virtual characters have the potential to be a true equalizer and the next frontier in representation in the arts.”
“That is how virtual avatars can and should enable MORE artists to have a platform, not fewer. Throughout my career, whether as an artist manager, a label head, or an executive, I’ve been consistent in my mission to empower creatives and provide alternatives to unscrupulous norms in the music business. I will continue to do that,” says Anthony Martini.