FN Meka: Hardcore Singer Behind Company Quits As Rapper Who Voiced Project Claims Creators Ghosted Him
Music exec and former hardcore singer Anthony Martini is distancing himself from the Augmented Reality rapper FN Meka, with whom Capitol Records “severed ties” earlier this week after clips of the project using the N-word and propagating racial stereotypes went viral. As Billboard lays out, Martini is a former artist manager who has helped develop artists such as Lil Dicky and MadeinTYO and was CEO of Royalty Exchange from 2021 until earlier this year. He was also lead singer of the New Jersey rap-metal group E.Town Concrete, who’ve been “in retirement” since about 2015.
Martini first partnered with FN Meka’s designer, Brandon Le, in 2020 after his daughter showed him Meka’s Instagram profile. Together, Martini and Le launched the company Factory New, with the intention of launching similar virtual artists.
When Martini spoke to the New York Times on Tuesday, he said he’d expected the Capitol Records deal to be canceled because of bad press. He also said that FN Meka is mostly a human rapper, which would qualify him as AR (Augmented Reality) instead of AI (Artificial Intelligence).
Martini also said FN Meka’s voice is “a Black guy” and “not this malicious plan of white executives… It’s literally no different from managing a human artist, except that it’s digital.” He added that the FN Meka team was “actually one of the most diverse teams you can get,” adding, “I’m the only white person involved.” When Billboard requested to speak to the rapper or other Black creatives involved with FN Meka, Martini said they wished to remain anonymous.
On Thursday, Martini released a full statement saying that he a) did not create FN Meka, b) only joined the team after songs “Moonwalkin'” and “Internet” were released on SoundCloud, and c) joined after an Instagram post depicting the virtual rapper involved with police brutality was already out there.
Here’s Martini’s full statement:
After much consideration, I have decided to sever ties with FN Meka and Factory New effective immediately.
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 center of the creative process and must be compensated fairly.
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.
As a manager, my role has always been to create opportunities while the artists on our team lead creative. I’ll always defer to the talent when it comes to how they choose to express themselves and will back them in their vision. I can’t speak for what happened before me, but while I was involved, artists on the project were always compensated fairly and participated in the revenue from their work.
I also take full responsibility for the lack of transparency and confusion that my comments about “A.I.” elements in Meka’s music may have caused. Those quotes were from a 2021 interview and were meant to create intrigue and provide cover for songs at the time which weren’t ready for scrutiny. FN Meka’s vocals have always been written and performed by humans, which in this case, have been black voices – to be clear.
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.
Too many artists never realize their dreams because of the labels put on them by society. The music industry is full of talented singers, rappers and producers who never get a shot because a corporation doesn’t think they have “right look” or are “too old” or not “marketable enough.” Whether it’s prejudices they face or simply the artist not feeling comfortable with the body they were born in, virtual characters have the potential to be a true equalizer and the next frontier in representation in the arts.
That is how virtual avatars can and should enable MORE artists to have a platform, not fewer. Throughout my career, whether as an artist manager, a label head, or an executive, I’ve been consistent in my mission to empower creatives and provide alternatives to unscrupulous norms in the music business. I will continue to do that.
– Anthony Martini
Likewise, on Wednesday rapper Kyle The Hooligan claimed the creators behind FN Meka had made promises to him so they could use his voice for the AR rapper. Then, he says, they “ghosted” him and did not fulfill any of those promises. “[FN Meka] used me for my voice my likeness and the culture,” Kyle captioned an Instagram video. “Got 10million TikTok followers and a Big record deal off what I created then ghosted me…”