Will.i.am speaking at DMN Pro’s AI-focused symposium in October, 2023 at the artist’s FYI headquarters in Los Angeles (photo: Digital Music News)
When it comes to AI, will.i.am is emerging as one of several high-profile artists embracing the technology. Now, the artist — in conjunction with his FYI app — is debuting a SiriusXM radio show featuring a seriously convincing AI co-host, qd.pi.
Digital Music News first tipped news of the upcoming SiriusXM channel, dubbed ‘Will.i.am Presents the FYI Show,’ last week. Now, it’s showtime: according to details shared by the satellite radio giant, the show will begin airing on Thursday night on SiriusXM’s The 10s Spot (channel 11).
The kicker: will.i.am’s cohost is an ‘AI deejay’ and a seriously convincing one at that. A quick listen makes you realize that AI radio deejaying has arrived — and may be ready for primetime.
But how convincing is this? Ahead of the show’s debut, the Black Eyed Peas progenitor shared a preview of the show with DMN on a dedicated channel on FYI, an app designed by will.i.am to be the ‘ultimate productivity tool for creatives’. A few minutes in, and will.i.am’s sidekick AI deejay, qd.pi, appears. She’s scarily convincing — and without the AI disclaimer, listeners might think they’re listening to a well-spoken Brit.
This isn’t the navigational voice in your car mispronouncing street names. Instead, qd.pi’s inflections, timing, and pronunciations are almost impeccable — scarily so.
The rest is a mix of hits (think Bad Bunny, Post Malone, and Pharrell), chats with guests like Xzibit, and pass-offs to qd.pi. “Each week, we’re gonna take a deep dive into pop culture, music, entertainment, world news, and technology,” will.i.am describes in the show’s opening minutes. “We’re going to have thought-provoking discussions, hilarious games, interviews with some of my favorite people making culture today, and of course, the hottest music.”
“It’s also the first show with an AI radio cohost,” will.i.am reminds us. Indeed, this is the special sauce that makes this show genuinely different.
Interestingly, will.i.am refers to qd.pi as ‘it,’ which suggests some refreshing distance.
For those familiar with AI ‘companion’ platforms like Replika and candy.ai, that’s not always the case. But regardless of your orientation towards AI personalities, qd.pi does sound remarkably close to an actual human. According to will.i.am, this is the result of a relatively advanced large language model iteration.
“Nobody’s programming you telling you what to say, there’s nobody behind a mystery curtain with a microphone,” will.i.am assured. “There’s nobody typing what you’re saying. You’re a for real, large language model, able to have conversations — real deep ones, with knowledge about what’s happening in real-time. You are a for-real-for-real type of AI.”
Unsurprisingly, qd.pi agreed with that praiseworthy assessment, backing up the statement with an eloquent verification. Meanwhile, will.i.am also aims to complement the action on SiriusXM with a concurrent channel and chat on FYI, a social media startup with splashy Hollywood digs.
Perhaps the best part of the debut FYI Show is decidedly non-AI.
In a discussion about cars, rap, and everything in between, guest Xzibit offered some interesting information about his now-famous show, Pimp My Ride. “To be honest, I never intended to do reality TV. I did it because I wanted [MTV] to play my f-ing videos,” Xzibit admitted. “The people that listened to my music were on one side. But then I was getting soccer moms and people who didn’t care about Xzibit the rapper, but there was a character and personality that was comforting or funny, or I said something funny and they got it. It had nothing to do with my music, and that was the light bulb for me.”
“Pimp My Ride changed my life. It took me from a regional rapper to a global brand.”
Late last year, FYI generously offered its workspace for Digital Music News to host an AI-focused music industry symposium. The packed event drew producers, publishers, music technologists, lawyers, investors, and artists from all corners of the music industry.
“As far as focusing my ideas and strategizing with collaborators, I use AI for that,” Will said during one of the panels. “The thinking through how to put [a track] out in the world, what does it mean to the world? It’s more solution-oriented for helping with marketing, and I like AI for that.”