E.Town Concrete Vocalist Anthony Martini Severs Ties With Controversial AI Rapper FN Meka
UPDATE (Aug. 26): Anthony Martini has issued a formal statement, which reveals he has severed ties with both FN Meka and Factory New. Read the complete statement at the bottom of the page (via Stereogum).
Anthony Martini, vocalist for New Jersey alternative metal band E.Town Concrete is a co-creator of the controversial AI (artificial intelligence) rapper FN Meka.
After amassing 10 million followers on TikTok, Capitol Records signed FN Meka, making the bot the world's first AI rapper to sign to a deal with a major label. Shortly after the signing, it was uncovered that the rapper has used the N-word in lyrics, despite none of its creators being Black. This backlash spurred Capitol to promptly drop FN Meka in tandem with an apology statement.
"CMG [Capitol Music Group] 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," the label said (via New York Times' Joe Coscarelli).
Prior to signing with Capitol, FN Meka, created by brothers Chris and Brandon Le, was part of Martini's "virtual" record label, Factory New, which launched the rapper. As reported by Music Business Worldwide in 2021, Factory New also utilizes AR (augmented reality) to generate content spread across social media, namely TikTok.
Martini's past industry experience also includes artist management with Ferret Records and Crush Management as well as involvement with Jingle Punks Music, a company that provides music for TV, film and video games. Looking at the future of artist development, he told Music Business Worldwide last year, "The old model of finding talent is inefficient and unreliable. It requires spending time scouring the internet, traveling to shows, flying to meetings, expending resources all in search of the magic combination of qualities that just might translate into a superstar act. Even with all the money labels devote to finding talent, the success rate is a pitiful one percent. Now we can literally custom-create artists using elements proven to work, greatly increasing the odds of success. Even if we can get to two percent success rate then we’ve doubled the industry standard."
About the process behind creating AI music, he said, "We’ve developed a proprietary AI technology that analyzes certain popular songs of a specified genre and generates recommendations for the various elements of song construction: lyrical content, chords, melody, tempo, sounds, etc. We then combine these elements to create the song. As of now, a human voice [rapper Kyle the Hooligan, a Black man] performs the vocals, but we are working towards the ability to have a computer come up with and perform its own words – and even collaborate with other computers as 'co-writers.'"
E.Town Concrete last released the Heart of Stone EP in 2012 and are still active today.
(Aug. 26) Anthony Martini Statement on FN Meka Controversy + Factory New Record Label Exit
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