Sammus article photo

Sammus on AI

With controversy surrounding "augmented reality" act FN Meka, it's worth reading Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo's story on artificial intelligence in the rap industry.

With controversy surrounding would-be “augmented reality” rapper FN Meka, it’s worth reading Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo’s article for Public Books magazine on the infiltration of artificial intelligence in modern rap. Dr. Lumumba-Kasongo — a rapper who goes by the name of Sammus, released the evocative Pieces in Space in 2016 and has a PhD in science and technology — questions the widespread use of digital blackface, criticizes applications that mimic Black vernacular speech, and points to their historical roots in minstrelsy and other forms of cultural appropriation. “I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when a succession of stories at the intersection of rap performance and AI flitted across my radar last spring: first I was introduced to FN Meka, an ‘AI robot rapper’ who, perhaps unsurprisingly, also sells NFTs,” she writes. “Around the same time, Google Arts & Culture announced the Hip Hop Poetry project, led by creative technologist Alex Fefegha, to answer the question of whether AI can rap. A few weeks later, I learned about the success of Uberduck imitating Kanye West. I listened only once before putting down my phone in discomfort.” It’s worth pointing out that not only is FN Meka voiced by a Black musician, but the fake act’s debut single, “Florida Water,” features Gunna — evoking shades of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. No matter how offensively corrupt the music industry gets, there will always be plenty of folks happy to play along for fun and profit.

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