Major studio deal with "robot rapper" raises eyebrows

Capitol Records, the music studio that counts Katy Perry and Paul McCartney among its clients, has signed a deal with FN Meka, a virtual TikTok star. Not everyone is impressed.

Virtual influencers are already making millions of dollars on social media, with some claiming that "nobody is real" there anyway. The same philosophy seems to drive FN Meka, a virtual rapper with 10 million followers on TikTok.

In a statement, Capitol Records said that FN Meka's "over-the-top flexing and extravagant sense of style" has made him the number one "virtual being" on TikTok, where stories cataloging his made-up life have over one billion views.

Moments include juggling a set of items while sitting on a ball superimposed on a real-looking park, chopping a zucchini, and bragging about a new Minecraft mansion.

"Digital blackface"

The deal was followed by a release of FN Meka's first major studio single – "Florida Waters" – which has led to some concern online over the direction the music industry is taking.

DJ Luca Lush said in a Twitter thread that artificial intelligence could be a "fantastic" tool for creative expression but noted that "something feels wrong" about replacing human creatives entirely.

"If the end goal is to replace artists with AI for purely financial gains - I hope that's not the path we're heading down," they said.

Others questioned the use of the N-word in the lyrics of FN Meka's latest single and speculated how many people behind FN Meka were black.

"This is blackface through and through," a Twitter user Cultchild said, posting a picture of the virtual rapper and Christopher Travers of Virtual Humans, a company behind leading virtual influencers.

Blurred lines

While it is not exactly clear who the people behind FN Meka are, Capitol Records says that the robot rapper "blurs the line between humans and computers" and is "the world's first AR artist" to sign with the major label. While the voice behind the avatar is human, everything else – from lyrics to tempo – is computer generated.

In the future, the goal is for a computer not only to write but also perform its own music – as well as collaborate with other computers, according to a report by the Music Business Worldwide. This is where FN Meka would differ from Gorillaz, a trailblazing, Grammy-award-winning virtual band.

For his latest single, FN Meka still partnered with humans, a Billboard chart-topping rapper Gunna and a gaming streamer Cody "Clix" Conrad.

Turbo and DJ Holiday produced the song, released on major streaming platforms, and a royalty-free music startup for Youtube and Twitch creators to use "without monetization or takedowns."

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