An Atlanta-based rapper has alleged that he is the voice behind AI star FN Meka and in turn has accused the team behind the project of ghosting him after he was promised equity.
Kyle The Hooligan has posted notes and videos in which he claims that Factory New, the company behind creating FN Meka, has left him “high and dry”. He also shared information to prove that he’s the formerly unknown voice behind the viral robot rapper, which has since been corroborated by a former employee at Factory New.
FN Meka, which Factory New signed to Capitol Records earlier in August, was dropped by Universal-owned label less than a fortnight after launching.
Critics highlighted the way the project trivialised 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 (CMG) executive vice president of experiential marketing and business development, saying previously 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 had already garnered more than 10million TikTok followers through brand partnerships before Capitol signed the rapper, was seen to use the N word and appeared to make light of police brutality.
Now, Kyle the Hooligan has broken his silence to claim that Meka’s creators “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…
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“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 video caption.
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.
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NME has contacted Factory New for comment about Kyle’s claims.
One of the people formerly attached to the project, the E.Town Concrete vocalist Anthony Martini, has issued a statement explaining why he exited the venture earlier this week.
“After much consideration, I have decided to sever ties with FN Meka and Factory New
effective immediately,” Martini wrote.
“I joined the team in early 2020 because I am truly passionate about the future of digital media and felt my background could help fulfill Meka’s potential in the music industry. It’s become apparent that I should have done more diligence before joining. In the past few days, I’ve learned of Kyle The Hooligan’s experience with Meka which is deeply at odds with my core values. I believe that artists must always be at the centre of the creative process and must be compensated fairly.”
He continued: “I debated making a statement at all, but felt there is some basic info that should be available to clarify the record: I did not create FN Meka, nor did I ever claim to. I discovered Meka online almost a year after ‘Moonwalkin’ and ‘Internet’ were released
on Soundcloud and after the police brutality Instagram post was already made. I joined
the team in early 2020 and was named co-founder with my specific focus being business development and artist management. I take responsibility for diving into a project without comprehensively examining its history.
“There are many lessons to be learned from this experience and I believe we have opened important conversations about entertainment in the digital age, the music
industry, the metaverse, and what art in general looks like in the future.”
Meanwhile, as journalist Coscarelli noted in his own New York Times report on Capitol ditching the FN Meka project, which was published before Martini had severed ties with Factory New, Martini predicted that the cancellation would happen.
Martini had blamed the culling on “blogs that have latched onto a clickbait headline and created this narrative”.
The former Factory New worker had 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 – whom 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 had also claimed that the expanded team behind Meka is “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get”, with Martini himself being “the only white person involved”.
Additionally, Martini claimed that Capitol had not pledged any financial commitment to the project and did not pay Factory New an advance in finalising the deal. The New York Times reportedly confirmed this with the label.
However, you can read Martini’s latest comments (some of which are posted above) in his full severance statement here.
In a statement after ditching FN Meka, Capitol said: “CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately. 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.
“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.”