Virtual rapper FN Meka has been dropped by Capitol Records following backlash over cultural appropriation and racist stereotypes.
“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,” Capitol Music Group said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
The “robot rapper,” which was backed by virtual record label Factory New, was the first augmented reality artist to sign to a major label. The character, who has more than 10 million followers on TikTok, faced growing backlash after being depicted using the N-word in song lyrics and trivializing incarceration and police brutality.
Just hours before Capitol dropped FN Meka, the activist nonprofit group Industry Blackout released an open letter demanding that the label “terminate” the partnership.
“While we applaud innovation in tech that connects listeners to music and enhances the experience, we find fault in the lack of awareness in how offensive this caricature is,” the organization said in a statement. “It is a direct insult to the Black community and our culture. An amalgamation of gross stereotypes, appropriative mannerisms that derive from Black artists, complete with slurs infused in lyrics.”
“This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life,” the letter continued while citing Gunna, who is featured on FN Meka’s debut single, “Florida Water.”
“Gunna, a Black artist who featured on a song with FN Meka, is currently incarcerated for rapping the same type of lyrics this robot mimics. The difference is, your artificial rapper will not be subject to federal charges for such.”
Industry Blackout also called out Capitol for its “serious lack of diversity and resounding amount of tone deaf leadership,” adding, “This is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The group demanded that the label issue a public apology and remove Meka’s music from all platforms, as well as for “all monies spent” to “be allocated to charitable organizations that directly support Black youth in the arts, as well as marketing budgets for Black artists signed to Capitol Records.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Factory New founder Anthony Martini said he anticipated the deal’s termination, citing “blogs that have latched onto a clickbait headline and created this narrative.” He said that the project was “not this malicious plan of white executives” and that the team behind FN Meka was “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get.”
Capitol confirmed that it did not pay an advance to sign the rapper and there was no money to be paid back in the deal.