FATHER AND SON COMBINE MUSIC AND TECHNOLOGY TO EXPAND HOW WE DEFINE ARTISTS
April 28, 2021
Virtual musicians aren’t a new phenomenon, despite the new attention they’ve garnered with companies like Riot Games creating groups like K/DA and True Damage to promote their game League of Legends, and virtual influencers like Lil Miquela recording tracks with artists like Teyana Taylor or the artificial intelligence-powered rapper FN Meka. Virtual artists have been a part of the music scene since 1958 with the introduction of Alvin and the Chipmunks and continued with acts like The Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, Jem and The Holograms, and others. Even established artists like The Beatles, The Jackson 5 and the Osmonds had animated versions of themselves. In Asia, anime bands amass legions of fans. The early 2000s welcomed vocaloids, vocal synth programs turned mascots, perhaps the most famous being Hatsune Miku, who has performed for sold-out venues. More recently you have Adult Swim’s death metal band Deathlok, the stars of Daft Punk’s Interstella 555 Crescendolls, and the virtual supergroup Gorillaz.
Historically, a virtual artist can be a costly venture in time and funds. With advancements in technology making it easier and the mainstream acceptance of anime virtual artists have been making a comeback. Entrepreneur Maj Mack was uniquely positioned to foresee the new virtual artist trend from the creation of his anime culture site Goboiano. Maj used his knowledge of tech and geek culture and teamed up with his father, Grammy award-winning producer K Mack whose resume includes Mary J Blige, Beyonce, Coi Leray, and a host of others, to create Giga Music Group and their first virtual recording artist YFU Baby. The charismatic virtual rap artist has been garnering a fanbase between her songs on Spotify and her performances and weekly conversations with fans on Twitch. She has also had IG lives with other artists like The Hxlidy. We spoke to Maj and K Mack about Giga Music and YFU Baby.
What made you decide to create Giga Music?
Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by both anime and hip-hop culture. When I wasn’t trying to produce beats on Reasons, I spent my time running an anime torrent website to help fans get access to series that weren’t available in the US. As I started to see virtual artists become a thing in Japan and hip-hop/anime culture becoming more intertwined, I thought this was my chance to combine both of my passions. I knew I had the relationships in both industries to make it happen.
You’re the son of a Grammy award-winning producer, was music always in your plans?
I always knew that I wanted to be in the music industry. It’s hard not when you grow up in the studio being surrounded by producers and recording artists. I wasn’t sure what form it would take, but I always was drawn into that world and lifestyle.
What exactly is Giga Music Group?
Giga Music Group is a music and technology company focused on developing and distributing virtual characters to the world’s most popular platforms. We develop our own talent in-house while also working with other artists, brands, and creators to have their own interactive virtual character.
K Mack, You have created music for some iconic entertainers. What made you get into virtual artists?
That’s easy! My son and the fact that I won’t have to deal with humans as an artist was a win-win.
What should we expect from Giga Music?
We’re releasing YFU’s first studio album this summer along with some interesting collaborations on the project so definitely look forward to that. We’re also working on our next two talent projects, one as a K-Pop group and the other in EDM so the team is excited to start branching off into new music categories. Outside of our internal talent, we have a few projects in the works with turning a few hip-hop artists into virtual characters. So 2021 is going to be a packed year for the GIGA team.
Tell us about YFU. Is she AI, V Tubers, or an artificial artist? What would you classify her as?
I would classify her as a virtual recording artist. Similar to The Gorillas, Hatsune Miku, or even Daft Punk’s Crescendolls to some extent.
What was the inspiration behind YFU Baby?
Kind of like I said earlier, I started to notice a trend between hip-hop and anime culture around the rise of the Soundcloud era with artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, and Doja Cat. With hip-hop becoming the dominant music genre, anime becoming more mainstream, and the rise of digital artists in Japan, the next logical step seemed to be an anime-inspired digital hip-hop artist.
What is the goal of YFU Baby? For Giga Music?
With YFU, we want to help bring the idea of virtual and anime artists to a mainstream level in the US. Developing an artist that sits at the intersections of hip-hop and anime at a level similar to The Gorillaz. We want GIGA to be the primary provider of digital recording artists around the world in every genre.
Animated artists have become a big thing recently with the League of Legends’ artists. Is this the trend that Giga is following?
While projects like League of Legends have definitely helped pave the way for digital artists, GIGA’s inspiration goes back a bit further to the years Vocaloid and Hatsune Miku started to become big in the East. Our team previously worked in that space whether producing music or making content for a lot of the Japanese digital talent, so it gave birth to the idea of recreating that magic over here in the West.
Who is behind the design? Who came up with her concept, her style?
YFU Baby’s concept was a brain-trust between our team, while her style and design was a collaboration with our internal production team, and popular anime artists J.K. and MonQ.
The imagery looks very anime-inspired, was that on purpose?
Absolutely. We feel like anime is hitting an inflection point where within the next decade, the style and content will be as big as Marvel or other Disney IP. Utilizing the anime style also allows YFU Baby to have a more global appeal, having her music penetrate foreign markets such as China and Japan.
YFU has been on IG with The Hxliday are there any collabs coming up with him or any artists?
Absolutely. Over the next quarter, you can expect to see YFU going live with other popular hip-hop artists so definitely stay tuned. I can’t say any names right now, but the collaborations should definitely get anime and music fans buzzing.
Do you have any other artists coming out on Giga soon? What’s coming up for Giga?
We currently have another female artist we’re developing right now that’s more of an EDM artist/DJ similar to Afrojack. Definitely excited to jump into that category and debut her later this year!