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Virtual Rapper FN Meka Dropped by Capitol Records After Backlash Over Racist Stereotypes

The announcement came just hours after the group Industry Blackout released a statement demanding the label "terminate" the agreement.

Less than two weeks after signing virtual rapper FN Meka, Capitol Records says it has “severed ties” with the project “effective immediately,” following public charges of cultural appropriation and perpetuating 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 released Tuesday (Aug. 23) and shared with Billboard. “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.”

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Launched in 2019 by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le of the virtual record label Factory New, the FN Meka project came under scrutiny after the character was depicted using the N-word in song lyrics and falling victim to police brutality on social media. Just hours before Capitol dropped the project, the music industry group Industry Blackout — described on Twitter as “a unified body of black people in the industry committed to changing the community” — 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 group’s statement read. “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.”

The statement continued, “This digital effigy is a careless abomination and disrespectful to real people who face real consequences in real life,” before citing the case of rapper Gunna (coincidentally featured on the FN Meka song “Florida Water,” released by Capitol) who “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. For your company to approve this shows a serious lack of diversity and resounding amount of tone deaf leadership. This is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

In addition to requesting that the label ditch the project, the group demanded a formal public apology, for FN Meka to be removed from all platforms and for “monies spent” on the project by Capitol and Factory New 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.”

Capitol declined to comment on whether they would be meeting the other demands listed in the statement.

In a press release announcing the Capitol signing earlier this month, the label claimed the “AR” (augmented reality) rapper had drawn over 1 billion views and 10 million followers on TikTok; the project also boasts 220,000 followers on its official Instagram account, which has been set to private following the backlash. The announcement coincided with the label’s release of the FN Meka track “Florida Water” with Gunna and gaming streamer Cody “Clix” Conrod, which was simultaneously made available to Clix’s fans via a partnership with royalty-free music platform Slip.Stream, where Martini was hired as partner and chief music officer in December before departing the role on June 1 to focus on Factory New.

The deal was originally touted as the first major label signing of an AR rapper.