The GuardianThe Guardian

Are AI-powered ‘virtual rappers’ just a strange new form of Blackface?

By Akin Olla

01 Sep 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Has systemic racism already crept into AI? In this opinion piece from The Guardian, the author argues that it has. Dive in to discover why.

The minstrel show has returned, riding on the apocalyptic horses of artificial intelligence, social media, and NFTs. FN Meka, a rapper created by artificial intelligence who gained TikTok fame through viral short music videos, exists. This fact itself is unfortunate. More unfortunate is that the artificial construct was temporarily signed to Capitol Records. The company dropped FN Meka in response to complaints from Industry Blackout, an activist organization of Black professionals in the entertainment industry, who accused the creators of engaging in racist stereotypes and a modern version of blackface.

The journey to FN Meka and the rebirth of the minstrel show was slow, but obvious. Characters like Russel Hobbs of the Gorillaz are guilty of opening the doors for this form of digital blackface, but FN Meka presents a full leap into an older tradition. Instead of donning black makeup, white owners can now create their own Black artists from scratch, built with the racist biases inevitable when artificial intelligence is crafted under a white supremacist society.

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