Although software like ChatGPT’s ability to truly wield a pen has oftentimes been laughably questionable, AI software is nevertheless infiltrating the rap game—and getting frighteningly good at it. Artists like Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur, Juice WRLD, and more have recently seen AI-generated versions of their voices used on different covers.
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Listening to fake Rihanna perform Drake’s “Find Your Love” and fake Nicki tackle Ice Spice’s “Bikini Bottom” seemed, at first, like nothing more than internet fun and games. But a new viral song that features Drake and The Weeknd “performing” a new song neither of them had a hand in takes the trend to a new level, one that has both mesmerized fans and concerned some industry figures.
The track, titled “Heart On My Sleeve,” features eerily realistic renditions of Drake and The Weeknd’s voices over a Metro Boomin beat. Made ostensibly without the use of any human vocals or production, to the untrained ear the song doesn’t necessarily sound out of place within Drake’s discography (with some even opining that it’s better than his other recent work.) So far, the song has accumulated over 11 million views across different promotional videos, per Rolling Stone.
A deep dive on the origins of “Heart On My Sleeve” conducted by Twitter user and author Mitchell Landon seemed to reveal that the track—originally posted by TikTok creator Ghostwriter977—actually came from Laylo, a creator-focused salesforce service that helps creators connect directly with their fans. Via Twitter, Laylo founder Alec Ellin has previously expressed interest in using AI-generated hip-hop voices for different projects, including podcasts.
While some online users—including producer Hit-Boy—have heralded AI’s emceeing abilities as an exciting new horizon for rap music, others are disheartened by the growing commonplaceness of these tracks, with some pointing out that the specific focus on AI-rendered hip-hop speaks to a cultural contempt for unapologetically Black, urban music and the lived realities and human creativity that informs it. Producer Pete Rock has been a vocal critic of the trend, which he called “mad disrespectful” in a Sunday night Twitter statement.
“They cant beat black culture so what do they do when they cant measure natural talent?” he wrote. “Silly shit like AI! AI is such a cowardly act that bears no real soul or feeling.”
When it comes to the rappers the technology cribs from—not to mention their record labels—the AI-generated tracks are a concerning new prospect. After a ChatGPT-generated track that featured Eminem’s voice rapping about cats gained some online traction, his record label Universal Music Group had it wiped from the internet, slapping YouTuber Grandayy with a copyright strike. Elsewhere, more than 40 major music and entertainment organizations—including the Recording Academy and SAG-AFTRA— have united as the Human Artistry Campaign, a coalition that focuses on ensuring AI never replaces human creators.
“There are fundamental elements of our culture that are uniquely human. Only humans are capable of communicating the endless intricacies, nuances, and complications of the human condition through art – whether it be music, performance, writing, or any other form of creativity,” the coalition’s homepage states. “Developments in artificial intelligence are exciting and could advance the world farther than we ever thought possible. But AI can never replace human expression and artistry.”
As for Drake—whose voice has been laid out over everything from Ice Spice’s “Munch” to Colby Callait’s “Bubbly”— it seems the rapper has had enough of the trend. In response to the “Munch” edit, Drake declared via Instagram: “This is the final straw AI.” Hey, better to address the trend head-on now; the way the technology is moving, in a few months a case of Instagram beef could lead to a Drake diss track penned by an AI version of himself.