Virtual influencers are apparently finding more talents than just attracting Instagram likes.
Lil Miquela, a CGI persona purportedly created by an enigmatic startup called Brud, released a music video with Baauer this week for a song called “Hate Me,” in which she’s superimposed alongside the EDM artist in a dance studio.
Miquela is the most prominent of a growing crop of computer-graphic personas custom-designed to garner Instagram fame. She’s modeled clothes from Prada and Chanel, supported causes like Black Lives Matter and appeared alongside celebrity friends Diplo and Bo Burnham. Her Instagram account has accrued 1.4 million followers since its launch in 2016—thanks, in part, to a flurry of internet conspiracy theories about her identity.
She’s also started releasing electronic-heavy music with lyrics sung by an auto-tuned female voice purporting to be Miquela. The single featured in the new video touches on her “occasionally toxic relationship to fans and fame,” according to a press release.
“To make myself clearer, I just don’t give a fuck,” Miquela sings. “I press all your buttons just so I can rip them off.”
That may be referring to the backlash Miquela faced after a bizarre “hacked” account spat with a pro-Trump virtual influencer earlier this year that culminated in the revelation that both personas were supposedly the creation of a Los Angeles startup called Brud. The company—which claims to be “a small team of artists, engineers, roboticists and activists” that specializes in artificial intelligence—offered a fictional origin story about Miquela being a sentient AI stolen from another company called Cain Intelligence. Cain Intelligence doesn’t exist outside of a website that appears to be a pretty well-done parody of an evil robotics corporation.
It’s also not exactly clear what Brud actually is—its website now redirects to a Google Doc with a very uninformative FAQ that describes the company as “reading War of the Worlds on the radio” in strikethrough text followed by “a transmedia studio that creates digital character-driven story worlds.” It’s led by “head of compassion” Trevor McFedries, a former member of the rap group Shwayze under the name DJ Skeet Skeet or Yung Skeeter (which may explain Miquela’s music industry connections). Whatever Brud is, TechCrunch reported that it’s raised $6 million from prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firms.
The creators may also be trying to make some point about the nature of reality in the internet age. In a quote included in a High Snobiety cover story on Miquela, her unnamed creator talks about a need to “collectively teach our loved ones how to think critically and how to spot misinformation.”