Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life—but no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list, too. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we’re pleased to present our semi-regular racism surveillance machine. Stay woke, and keep your head on a swivel out there.
The state of rap music is at its most confounding right now. No matter where you turn, there’s something you can see or experience that’s reminiscent of a sort of hyperreality, a strange post-capitalist invention that’s a better fit for a darkly comic novel or an episode of Black Mirror. But, you know what they say, life is stranger than fiction.
FN Meka, an AI-powered music artist, recently signed a record deal with Capitol Records. The robotic rapper, which was initially created to shill NFTs, is basically an amalgam of some of today’s most garish trends. He has green half-dreads, face tattoos, and wears really loud clothing while having no sense of taste. He’s also programmed by a White man and is extremely racially ambiguous, which raises a lot of interesting questions about digital and virtual blackface. Not to mention the program’s use of the N-word.
FN Meka’s lack of taste comes into clear focus when you listen to any of his songs, which sound like watered-down, soulless takes on Lil Pump and 6ix9ine records, which is something cause those dudes already make watered-down versions of other people’s music. With more than 10 million followers on TikTok, though, there apparently is an audience for this weird shit. I suspect the Venn Diagram of people who are fans of FN Meka and who play Fortnite every day is one big-ass circle.
Way before FN Meka signed a deal and was just unsigned hype, the Daily Beast published a story about this creation. In the piece, Anthony Martini, co-founder of Factory New, a metaverse-based music company that initially signed the “rapper,” says the concept of FN Meka is no different than the DJ Marshmello, Gorillaz, or even 50 Cent.
“Most entertainers’ images today are manufactured by a label or a management team,” he claimed. This is true to an extent, but what Martini fails to realize is that 50 Cent is a person; FN Meka is not. FN Meka is a robot—a robot that’s never popped nothin’. But this should be the type of insight on hip-hop, culture, and artistry you should expect from one of the guys who was responsible for helping Lil Dicky blow up.
Update: Capitol Records has announced the label has dropped FN Meka due to backlash. Per the label's statement: “CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately. We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it. 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.”