"Now we can literally custom-create artists using elements proven to work."
Major record label Capitol Records has added another artist to its lineup of heavyweights — but this one is a little less, shall we say, tangible, than the others.
Known as FN Meka, the artist is an AI-powered rapper, and has already garnered over ten million followers on TikTok, where it posts videos of its 3D avatar imposed in the real world doing everything from grilling in a Rolls Royce to flexing its Bugatti Chiron shaped jet.
The virtual celebrity is reported to be the first AI artist to sign with a major label, and has collaborated with the certified platinum rapper Gunna in a new single called "Florida Water."
The virtual rapper's songwriting process isn't entirely transparent, but its creators claim that all its music — from lyrics to chord progressions — is "based on AI," while the vocals are performed by a human studio musician.
What is transparent, however, is its creator’s intentions. In an interview with Music Business Worldwide last year, Anthony Martini, who co-founded the label Factory New which created FN Meka, said that the "old model of finding talent is inefficient and unreliable."
"Now we can literally custom-create artists using elements proven to work," Martini continued, "greatly increasing the odds of success. Even if we can get to 2% success rate then we’ve doubled the industry standard."
One Twitter sleuth dug up an old post on FN Meka's Instagram, which tastelessly depicts the rapper being beat up by a prison guard. "An AI rapper that says the n-word fabricating police brutality," they wrote. "Literally every single thing about this is so off-key."
"A white dude really made an AI that can rap then made a brown skin sprite for it called it FN Meka and it got signed to [Capitol Records]," another user tweeted.
It all stinks of cultural appropriation and a cynical attempt of manufacturing a bankable "star" out of nowhere. But whatever we may think of the move, Capitol clearly sees dollar signs.
More on virtual influencers: This CGI Influencer Is Shilling For More Than 100 Brands