How Virtual Characters Are Done Right
In less than a week, AI-powered rapper FN Meka became the first virtual rapper signed to a major label and then released by one. Capitol Records dropped the virtual act for being a complete caricature of black culture — glorifying police brutality in lyrics, dropping the n-word, and other cringey behaviors. However, FN Meka’s utter failure shouldn’t be a write off for ALL virtual characters. In fact, a prime example of how to do it right is Aku.
Aku was created by Micah Johnson — a former MLB player and now a full-fledged artist, both in the virtual and real world. The kid character is a black astronaut, which was inspired by Micah’s four-year-old nephew asking his mother, “can astronauts be black?” Unlike FN Meka, Aku is a vehicle to promote what one artist wants to see in the world. A symbol or hero for a better tomorrow.
This week, I’m running back an interview I did with Micah in 2021. It was done shortly after Micah first released the character as an NFT collection, selling $2 million right off the bat. And no, this was not just a FOMO-fueled drop amid the NFT crazy. Aku has lived on since then, and only a few weeks ago, the lifestyle fashion label Paper Plans announced a snapback collab with the Aku character. This comes on top of prior partnerships with major brands like Puma and Billionaire Boys Club, plus Aku appearing on the cover of Time Magazine.
Unlike FN Meka, the creation and intention behind Aku is an uplifting story.
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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guests: Micah Johnson, @Micah_Johnson3
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