Music from the heart, with an AI assist

The next time you hear a popular song on the radio, listen to
the beat behind the lyrics. Usually, a high-powered production team
came up with it—but in the future, that beat could be created
with help from artificial intelligence. That’s what Googler MJ
Jacob predicts, as he combines his job as an engineer with his love
for writing and performing rap music.�

Usually based in Google’s offices in New York City, MJ is
working from his Manhattan apartment these days as a customer
engineer for Google Cloud, helping companies figure out how to use
machine learning and AI to accomplish their business goals. But in
his free time, he’s writing lyrics, producing hip-hop tracks and
creating YouTube videos detailing how he does it all. 

MJ has balanced an interest in technology with a love for
hip-hop since he was a 13-year-old living in Virginia. His family
was struggling financially, and he found rappers’ rags-to-riches
lyrics to be inspirational. “Almost every rapper I listened to
was broke and then they made it,†he recalls. “These rappers
had very hard childhoods, whether it was because of money, parental
issues or anger from insecurities, and all of that is what I felt
in that moment.â€


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His favorite rappers felt like personal mentors, and he decided
to imitate them and try rapping himself. He recorded songs using
the microphone on his MP3 player; he says they were a crucial way
for him to vent. “From when I was 13 until today, being able to
write about my life and how I’m feeling, it’s the most
therapeutic thing for me,†he says. 

Around the same time he discovered hip-hop, MJ became fascinated
by technology. His family couldn’t afford a computer, but someone
at his local church built a computer for them, complete with a
see-through CPU tower. MJ first used it just to edit music, but
always loved looking at the computer parts light up. One day, he
spent six hours taking the tower apart and putting the pieces back
together. “It was very overwhelming but exciting the entire
time,†he says, “and I think that’s a similar emotion I feel
when I make music.â€

Most recently, he posted a video showcasing how he used AI to
create a hip-hop beat. He collected instrumental tracks that he and
his producer friends had created over the years, and uploaded the
files to Google Cloud. Then he used Magenta, Google’s open-source
tool that uses machine learning to help create music and art.
(Musicians
like YACHT
have used Magenta to create entire albums.) Based on
how he identified “hip-hop†in his dataset, the machine
learning model created entirely new melodies and drum beats. MJ
then used those new sounds to craft his track, and wrote and
performed lyrics to go along with it.

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Even though it was made with the help of machine learning, the
finished product still sounded like his music. And that’s
the whole point: MJ wants to show that AI doesn’t take away the
human side of his art—it adds to it. “AI never replaced
anything,†he explains. “It only assisted.â€

MJ Jacob shows how he created hip-hop beats using AI.
10:25

Authenticity is important to MJ (whose musical alias is MJx
Music), because he sees music as an important emotional outlet. His
most popular song, “Time Will Heal,†which has more than a
million streams, is inspired by his sister, a survivor of sexual
abuse. The lyrics are written from her perspective. “She taught
me so much about what it means to be a strong human, to go through
hell and back and still be able to make it,†MJ says. “We
decided it would be a cool opportunity to not only share her story,
but also help anyone who’s ever been abused or felt they’ve
been taken advantage of.â€

"Time Will Heal" by MJx Music
10:25

Next, MJ is hoping to take his experiments with music and
machine learning to a new level. In fact, he’s so inspired by the
combination that he’s looking to create a three or four-track EP
co-produced by AI. 

“Both music and tech are so fulfilling for me that they have
the ability to intertwine so well,†he says. “Now I’m pushing
myself even more musically, and I’m pushing myself even more
technically. It’s cool to be able to contribute to a new concept
in the world.â€

Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 2
Music from the heart, with an AI assist