An Atlanta-based rapper has alleged that he is the voice behind AI star FN Meka and in turn has accused Capitol Records of ghosting him after he was promised equity in the label.
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Kyle The Hooligan has posted notes and videos in which he claims that the Universal-owned label have left him “high and dry” and shared information that purports to prove that he is the formerly unknown voice behind the viral robot rapper.
FN Meka, made in collaboration with Factory New, was dropped by Capitol less than a fortnight after launching after its critics highlighted the way the project trivialized elements of Black culture and used them for shock value. The label alluded to this in a formal apology shared online earlier this week by The New York Times‘Joe Coscarelli.
Meka was marketed as the “world’s first” AI rapper to sign to a major label, with Ryan Ruden, Capitol Music Group’s executive vice president of experiential marketing and business development, saying that the project “meets at the intersection of music, technology and gaming culture” and “is just a preview of what’s to come”.
Capitol released its first FN Meka single, ‘Florida Water’, on August 12, which featured guest vocals from real life rapper Gunna and ancillary involvement from gaming streamer Clix.
But controversy followed when Meka, who’d garnered more than 10million TikTok followers, was seen to use the N word and appeared to make light of police brutality. As one of his creators, E.Town Concrete vocalist Anthony Martini explained to Music Business Worldwide, “lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds, etc” for Meka were all determined by artificial intelligence but he was voiced by a human.
Now, Kyle the Hooligan has broken his silence to claim that Capitol “used me for my voice my likeness and the culture got 10million TikTok followers and a big record deal off what I created then ghosted me…”
“They came to me with this AI shit and was like would I want to be the voice of it, and I thought it was going to be some collaboration,” Kyle wrote in a caption for a video.
In the clip he alleged: “They promised me equity in the company, percentages, all this stuff, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, this about to be some collab, something different for me, so I can do my music and do some AI stuff with this FN Meka character.”
“So everything going good,” he continued. “Next thing I know, n**** just ghosted me. Use my voice, use my sound, use the culture and literally just left me high and dry. I ain’t get a dime off of nothing, and they got record deals, all this stuff. I wasn’t involved in no meetings or none of that, which is fucked up. So, I’m glad they ass got canceled ’cause that’s karma for they ass ’cause God don’t play with me. I’m gonna tell you that right now.”
In a second clip, Kyle claimed that one of FN Meka’s songs, ‘Moonwalkin’, is his. “Just to prove to y’all this was my music and me Moonwalking and Internet,” he wrote in a caption.
NME has approached Capitol Records for comment.
Meanwhile, as journalist Coscarelli noted in his own New York Times report on Capitol ditching the FN Meka project, Factory New’s founder (and E.Town Concrete singer) Martini, predicted that would happen.
Martini blamed the impending cancellation on “blogs that have latched onto a clickbait headline and created this narrative”, seemingly alluding to the notion that Meka as a character is primarily developed by artificial intelligence (a narrative that Factory New championed themselves last year).
The founder told Coscarelli that the project was “not this malicious plan of white executives”, and that the FN Meka character was primarily the work of an anonymous human rapper – who Martini described only as “a black guy” – with Factory New’s role being “literally no different from managing a human artist, except that it’s digital”.
Martini also claimed that the expanded team behind FN Meka is “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get”, with Martini himself being “the only white person involved”.
Additionally, he claimed that Capitol had not pledged any financial commitment to the project, and did not pay Factory New an advance in finalizing the deal. Tea New York Times reportedly confirmed this with the label.
In a statement via the NY Times after culling the project, Capitol Records wrote: “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.”