Hip Hop and AI: Balancing innovation and authenticity l Street Soldiers

AI, or artificial intelligence, is new and intimidating to some people, but the fact is, we've been using it in our daily lives for a while. 

Now, as technology moves forward at breakneck speed, concerns are rising in the entertainment industry – and among lawmakers – about authenticity, ownership, and the loss of creative and production jobs.

The 2023 song, "Heart On My Sleeve", by a music artist known as Ghostwriter, featured AI voice that sounded identical to Drake and The Weekend. It initially confused fans who thought the two superstars had dropped a new duet. The ability of AI to mimic famous voices is just one feature. It is also able to perform production tasks in hours that might have taken a human engineer days. 

Multi-platinum music producer Amadeus has been creating hit music for more than 25 years. He says AI will allow him to mix and master tracks and songs faster, but he intends to continue creating from his heart and soul, and never let go of the mix engineer.  

"That’s the thing that I think is the challenge, kind of finding the balance of keeping those real moments, those real feelings and emotions and enjoying the AI technology that we have today," Amadeus said. "As long as we can keep the feeling in music, keep the realness in music, then I think we’re in a good place."

AI has enabled us to give voice commands to appliances, get suggested searches online, and, with ChatGPT, get fast transcripts, translations, and other tasks done quickly. It has also created new territory for scammers, intellectual property thieves, and impostors – a kind of Wild West with no sheriff in town. In the entertainment industry, the technology is outpacing the rules and laws that govern its use, but that's starting to change, says Forbes entertainment reporter, Matt Craig. 

"The laws and the regulations are mostly non-existent, especially in the United States, but it’s catching up," Craig said. "The European Union has already adopted a law that requires you to give a detailed report of not only the AI and copyrighted works that were used in creating music, but also to train the algorithm." 

Craig says in March 2024, Tennessee – home to the country music capital, Nashville – marked a major milestone with passage of the ELVIS Act. The name stands for "ensuring likeness, voice and image security" act. It is designed to protect artists in the AI era. 

Entertainment Attorney James McMillan made his reputation by tenaciously fighting for artist's rights. He was named one of the music industry's top lawyers by Billboard Magazine, and says the law has not caught up with AI. Until it does, he says he will continue to use existing copyright protections. 

"In as much as you can use technology to get to the marketplace quicker, I think it’s an exciting thing," McMillan said. "I think it becomes a scary thing when people tend to abuse the technology to mimic artists’ work or steal artists’ work and not give them the credit. That’s the scary part."