AI Rapper Controversy Proves One Thing: Culture is Now Commodified
After the very abrupt announcement of newly Capitol Records signee FN Meka, many music fans were already speculating on how taking on this virtual talent could easily become detrimental to rap culture. As sure just enough, they were right. Though Meka had already amassed over 10 million TikTok followers, received a collab with YSL artist Gunna, and became the hottest topic of social media overnight, he is still somehow able to be subjected to police brutality (or that’s what this character claims). In a viral clip that was posted on Instagram, it shows the AI rapper being forcefully detained by virtual police officers in a fake jail cell and making a cry for his innocence. This immediately raised eyebrows and some even took direct offense at how this incident showed that companies can really emulate black culture digitally for profit and really do not feel the need to actually consult with black community before pushing out this kind of content.
Capitol was quick to rescind their backing of Meka as soon as the backlash came in, but it was already too late. People were questioning how this was even allowed in the first place. A computerized rapper that is allowed to say n****, walk around in green faux locs, and claim to be a victim of police brutality. To our surprise, a black rapper named Kyle The Hooligan claimed that he is indeed the voice behind FN Meka. He stated that when he was approached by the virtual company that created the FN Meka character, he thought this would be a new collaboration endeavor for him and a chance to get paid. Kyle quickly realized that the company had ghosted him and was only looking to use his image and likeness in the first place.
What does the AI rapper controversy say about our black community’s own agency? Are we to be only considered valuable for our image and likeness and the rest can be generated for personal gain? When will the black community be allowed to have a say in how we want to be represented? What should we expect next from the future of rap culture? These are things that we must keep in check when allowing outsiders to infiltrate our culture and music industry.