How a 23-Year-Old From LA Fooled the Internet With an AI Kendrick Lamar Diss Track

Your social media handle is “Sy the Rapper.” What’s your background in rap?
I’m from South Central [Los Angeles], so rap is real big where I’m from. I wrote my first rap when I was 10. It was about donuts and Lakers [Laughs], and I’ve just been in love with it ever since.

What’s your background in AI? How did you learn how to use it in the first place?
I saw the first case of AI when that guy made a Drake song and people thought it was real. I really thought that was a real song, and it turned out it wasn’t real, so I just started researching it, and it’s kind of easy to do. With AI, the entry level is very simple, and it’s not super complex to use. The complex part comes in how you record because you kind of have to mimic the artist and mimic their voice and cadence, or else it’ll do a weird effect that gives away that it’s AI. The first time I used it was when I did a Kanye West feature. Of course, I didn’t have people believing I really linked up with Kanye. I let it be known that it was AI, and it was more so of a marketing tactic. I posted it on my artist profile, YouTube, and my Instagram, and I was like, “This is how I made the AI Kanye song.” I was amazed at the results.

What’s the name of the AI program you use?
The program used to be called Voicify, but now I guess they changed the name to Jammable, but it’s the same software.

How long have you listened to Kendrick to be able to replicate his writing style? You had a lot of people fooled.
I’ve been a fan of Kendrick for a very long time. The first time I heard a Kendrick song was in 2013. My friend had a bootleg CD—you know, we in the hood with it—so we didn’t have the money to buy the copy. I’ve never heard anybody rap about the struggle that we come from in a way that he did. A lot of people make gangster rap, but I just was so fascinated how he told the story of the good kid in a mad city, because that was literally me and my friends. I used to mimic Kendrick. He was my initial rap influence. When good kid, m.A.A.d City came out, I was 13. 

How did you make the beat?
At first, I was going to make a modern trap beat for him to rap on. But when I was making the song, I embodied Kendrick and the mind state he would be in. Placing myself in Kendrick’s shoes, it didn’t seem like he would come out swinging for the kill, considering that [Drake’s] song was a “leaked” track. It didn’t officially drop. So I was thinking, “If I’m Kendrick, I wouldn’t want to show my hand too early, since this song has been leaked and it’s not an official drop, so I can’t just come out swinging. So I got to come out with sort of a warning shot.”

That’s where my mindset was, so I’m like, “What is the perfect sounding track for a warning shot, but sending off a strong message?” That’s where the dark boom bap idea came from. I started with the sirens and the synthesizer. I wanted it to sound like The Purge or ambulance or something like that. I just wanted it to sound real chaotic. Then I built on that idea, and I didn’t want there to be too much going on, which is why I didn’t add a snare. I just kept it to kick drums and a sub along with some sounds. 

How long did it take for you to write the diss track?
It took me about an hour or two. I kept stopping to eat, so it would’ve been quicker [Laughs].

How did you record it and replicate his voice?
With the Kanye AI [track] that I did, I actually recorded it on my studio mic, but this time I recorded it in my voice memo. The beat wasn’t complete yet, so I was just like, “If this doesn’t sound real enough, I’m not going to continue with the process.” So I wrote down a few lines and recorded them into my voice memo on my phone.

I had to record the same line over and over, so the recording process really took most of the time because you’ve got to record the same phrase about 12 times. Each time you generate the AI, it [costs]another credit.  I had like 25 credits, and I ended up using pretty much all of them except for one, or else I’d have to pay for more. 

Before I would say the phrase, I would say an actual Kendrick Lamar line. So I would say lines from “ELEMENT” just so my voice could be in the same cadence. Before I would say my line, I would go, “Hey, I’ve been stomped out in front of my mama.” I would say it the exact way he would say it, so therefore my next line would come out sounding like Kendrick Lamar, because it’s hard for me to mimic other people, so I had to repeat his cadences from his real songs right before saying the phrases that I wrote down.

After I would record the voice memo, I would have to upload it to the audio trainer, then it generates and your vocal is ready to go with everything you recorded. From there, I would download the AI-generated vocal, cut out the pieces that I liked, and piece it together. Everything is line by line. It’s not just one take all the way through.

How long did the entire recording process take?
Between recording and generating the vocals, I would say between about maybe 2 or 3 hours. 

Why didn’t you include your isolated vocals in the initial video breakdown you posted? People in the comments have been asking for it, because they want more proof that you actually made this.
I did record myself making the whole song, but with TikTok and Instagram, they limit your amount of reach based on how long the video is. I rarely see videos that are longer than a minute and 30 actually go viral, at least from my profile. So it was hard to include all of those details if I wanted to make it a minute and 30.

I did see a lot of that questioning, and like I said, I wouldn’t want to damage Kendrick Lamar’s reputation. I hear the narrative being pushed that Kendrick Lamar wanted to test the waters and see if the diss would take, and because a lot of people were saying, “Oh, this wasn’t hard enough, he wasn’t going at Drake enough, they back backpedaled and said it was AI,” and that I’m on the payroll. They made this whole conspiracy theory. 

Did anyone from OVO reach out to you about it?
Actually, one of Drake’s affiliates reached out to me because he believed that I was lying. I sent him everything. I showed him my AI profile with all of the AI generations that I did. I did everything on Sunday, so the dates lined up. I sent him the voice memos, then I showed him the beat.

The copy of the diss track that went viral was on a page called Real Hip Hop, and it got half a million views. They cut out the whole intro segment of the beat, but there’s another copy online that has about 60,000 views, and it’s the full copy from start to finish, and you hear my beat tag on it, “It’s SY making hits.” That’s my beat tag because my name’s Asad. So on that full copy, that really debunks everything. How would I give my beat to Kendrick Lamar?

Even if that wasn’t enough, I recorded my computer as I was playing the stems with effects, and then without the effects. So I was showing Drake’s affiliate, like, “Yo, these are all of the stems. This is the kick by itself. I can mute everything except for the kick.” And I was just muting different things, like, “Yo, this is actually the beat that I made, and this is proof that I made the beat, and this is proof that I actually recorded these vocals and plugged them into the AI generator.”

[Editor’s note: After the interview, Sy also sent videos of the isolated stems to Complex as proof that he made the song.]

Did anyone from pgLang or TDE find you and reach out to you about this?
No. I haven’t heard from anybody on that side, but I definitely spoke to an OVO affiliate, and he was actually cool. I thought he was going to be mad. I thought there was going to be a lot going on. But when I sent him the proof, he was like, “Yo, man, since this is true, you are on the same lyrical level as Kendrick Lamar. Respect and keep working.” I just took that as a dope compliment. He was like, “Man, I didn’t mean to come at you rude,” but it wasn’t rude. I know he was really just trying to get to the facts. I just had to show him that it was legit. 

There are conspiracy theories that you’re a sleeper cell for OVO or that someone in Kendrick’s camp paid you off. Those aren’t true?
No, I’m not an affiliate of either parties involved.

What were your thoughts when you saw the track go viral and people like Drake reacted to it?
It was hilarious to see Drake laugh [at it]. Like, “Yo, he actually heard it.” I thought people were going to know that it was AI. Although it did sound real, it sounded like an old version of Kendrick Lamar. It didn’t sound like his more up-to-date style, at least in my opinion. It sounded like “Backseat Freestyle” so 2013. The style sounded kind of dated, so I just thought that would be a giveaway, but apparently it wasn’t. Then I saw this narrative coming out like, “Oh, he’s scared, he’s backpedaling.” So I’m like, “Nah, I’m not going to be responsible for a reputation getting ruined.”

I did see a lot of that questioning, and like I said, I wouldn’t want to damage Kendrick Lamar’s reputation. I hear the narrative being pushed that Kendrick Lamar wanted to test the waters and see if the diss would take, and because a lot of people were saying, “Oh, this wasn’t hard enough, he wasn’t going at Drake enough, they back backpedaled and said it was AI,” and that I’m on the payroll. They made this whole conspiracy theory. 

Did you feel any pressure to come forward and say you made it after the internet was running with the narrative that  Kendrick didn’t come hard enough on the fake song?
I didn’t think it would do much, and I still feel like it won’t do much, because it’s a leak. If you really look at Drake’s track, when it initially leaked, it was the rough draft copy first, and then the full version came out. So there’s a lot of speculation with leak tracks. When something’s leaked, it leaves room for speculation. I thought people were going to say, “Oh, maybe he recorded this before Drake’s diss leaked.” Or, “Maybe he wasn’t going to put this one out, and he had a gang of diss songs, and this was just one of them that he decided not to put out.” So I really didn’t think it would affect anything, but when I saw that narrative, I’m like, “Nah, I can’t just let that rock,” because that’s just not the truth. That’s what made me debunk it.

Since your page is full of comedy skits, with just one AI track you made about Kanye a year ago, why should people believe you? How do we know this isn’t just an elaborate skit that plays into the beef?
That Kanye video is super old, but the reason why I pinned it to the top of my profile is to show people like, “Hey, I’ve actually done an AI before and it sounds legit.” It’s just to show people my track record, even though I’ve only done two AI songs. But this is absolutely not a skit. I do do skits to promote my music, and I do have music on the page, but I know the skits get the most traction right now. But this isn’t a skit. It was legit AI, man. I just thought it would be cool to make an AI diss record, ‘cause I’m not the only one that made one. I guess mine was just one of the best ones because it got most of the attention. But you could type in “Kendrick Lamar diss” and there’s so many of them. I’ve seen so many diss records from both sides. A lot of people think the “Hi, Whitney” track is a legit track. I think that one’s fake just from dealing with AI. I hear some of the hiccups in it, but it’s a lot of people that believe that’s a legit track. 

What are the telltale signs and subtle things you notice that are giveaways that they’re fake?
A lot of people are scared of AI, rightfully so. I understand where the fear comes from, but AI isn’t as advanced as people think that it is. There’s a lot that AI can’t do. It still can’t mimic cadences. It can’t mimic emotions. For instance, if you hear the way Kendrick raps on “FEEL,” towards the end of the song, he starts screaming. But when you try to express any type of emotion in the AI, it’s like it can’t understand emotion yet, so everything is monotone. You can always tell because the emotion is not there.

I’m a Drake fan, too. I listen to Drake a lot, so I can tell from the pronunciation of some words. If you have a thick accent and you try to do the AI, the accent will show through. It will be a giveaway. 

Why do you think people are skeptical about the validity of you making the track, despite breaking it down in your TikTok?
I think some people are team Drake, so they run with whatever narrative that the Drake team puts out. But I also think that maybe I didn’t break it down enough. I did kind of run through the video because I had to make it a minute and 30 seconds. So it wasn’t a super thorough breakdown. But even with the vocals isolated, that’s not enough, because you have AI softwares that can break down stems and get an a capella. I feel like the strong supporting case would just be the beat and showing everybody my grid, because on modern producing softwares, when you play something on the keyboard, it has colored notes on the grid that you can actually see. AI doesn’t do that, at least to my knowledge. 

Since you said you’re a fan of both artists, who do you have winning the war between Dot and Drake?
Ah man, I can’t say. I would call myself a more neutral spectator, and shouts out to J. Cole, too. I love Cole.

Do you see yourself making anymore AI diss tracks as this battle continues?
I think I would probably leave it alone [Laughs]. Just seeing everything, man, people are angry about that. I had a dude tell me I’m responsible for the war in Israel. What does that have to do with this? It’s crazy. There are some people that like it. It’s very split. Some people are like, “Bro, that’s dope. That’s creative.” Some people are like, “Man, I hate this. I hate you.” I probably would leave it alone. If I did decide to do another one for fun, I would let it be known, like, “Yo, this is AI.” Or I probably would make some mistakes on purpose so people would catch it and know that it’s AI. 

Are you concerned about the direction that AI is headed?
I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe somebody was in on it, maybe a higher-up in the music industry. They want to make as much money as possible. So if they can make something that they can absolutely have 100% control over and make money off of it, I do believe they would push for it. Everything is a money game, but I don’t see AI replacing the feel of a real human being. I always say that the marketplace is determined by the consumer. You could have a product, but if everybody refuses to buy it, your product won’t sell. And as a businessman, it wouldn’t be smart to go restock that product that people refuse to buy. So I just feel like if they were able to create a successful AI superstar and the consumers cling to it and love it and embrace multiple of it, then it would get bad. So I guess to know that answer, we would have to really watch the consumer, because that’s what determines everything. 

View news Source: https://www.complex.com/music/a/j-rose/how-a-23-year-old-from-la-fooled-the-internet-with-an-ai

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