Skip to main content

Project Gucciberg offers classic audiobooks read by an AI deepfake of Gucci Mane

Project Gucciberg offers classic audiobooks read by an AI deepfake of Gucci Mane


Just give up now, Project Gutenberg

Share this story

Project Gucciberg: AI’ced up.
Project Gucciberg: AI’ced up.

Ever wanted to have Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis read to you by trap god Gucci Mane, creator of such hits as “Lemonade” and “Wasted”? Well, a) that’s an awfully specific desire, and b) it’s your lucky day.

Project Gucciberg is the latest drop from viral factory MSCHF, and it does exactly that. Using machine learning, MSCHF created an audio deepfake of Gucci Mane reading a selection of classic texts from Little Women to Beowulf. They’re all free to listen to and come with book covers that blend in perfectly with the artwork of Gucci Mane’s prolific discography.

The what of Project Gucciberg is luridly straightforward, but the why is harder to answer. If you’re not familiar with MSCHF, I recommend our profile of the outfit from last year. Essentially, they’re a group of VC-funded creators who make weird things designed to go viral online, like squeaky chicken bongs and Air Max 97 sneakers filled with water from the River Jordan, some of which are sold for a nominal fee. Then they ??? and profit (presumably by selling their services to companies who want things they made to go viral online).

“Gucci’s pronunciation follows a very particular cadence”

Speaking to The Verge, MSCHF’s Dan Greenberg didn’t go into the motivation behind Project Gucciberg but was more than happy to talk about the mechanics. Audio deepfakes are now pretty common (listen to this clone of Joe Rogan for a good example), to the point where they’ve been used to commit fraud. To make one, you just need a lot of sample data of your target speaking and the right neural networks to learn and copy their mannerisms.

Greenberg says MSCHF collected around six hours of audio of Gucci Mane talking from podcasts, interviews, and the like. They then created transcriptions of the clips to help with the text-to-speech (TTS) process. This required creating a “Gucci pronunciation key/dictionary to better capture the idiosyncrasies of Gucci Mane’s particular argot.”

The redesigned book covers of Project Gucciberg are a delight to behold.
The redesigned book covers of Project Gucciberg are a delight to behold.

“Gucci’s pronunciation follows a very particular cadence — he uses a much greater variety of vowel sounds, for instance, than your average TTS reader would,” says Greenberg. “The dictionary breaks words up into phonemes (discrete vocal gestures) that our model then uses as building blocks ... So for a simple example, we need our model to know what syllables to elide, or flow into each other across words: it needs to know to say “talm ‘bout” not ‘talking about,’ and the Gucci dictionary { T AH1 L M B AW1 T } gets us there where the written words ‘talking about’ do not.”

The results are impressive: the deepfake certainly sounds like the man himself, though the results are not always totally coherent or of the greatest quality. “Our fake Gucci Mane often sounds like he’s speaking through a bad mic, or over a low-quality internet stream, and part of this is because in the training data he often is doing exactly that,” says Greenberg.

Exactly why Gucci was chosen for this project came down to two factors, says Greenberg: one, the rapper has a distinctive voice, and two, the Project Gucciberg pun was too delicious to ignore.

The law has yet to offer an opinion on the legality of creating audio deepfakes of Gucci Mane

Greenberg adds that MSCHF didn’t approach Gucci to ask for permission to use his voice. As a disclaimer on the site slyly points out, the whole project raises interesting questions about copyright in the age of AI fakes. ”We didn’t write the books, and we deepfaked the voice,” it says. “Is this copyright infringement? Is it identity theft? All of the training data (recordings) used to make Project Gucciberg were publicly available on the web. Gucciberg lives in that lovely grey area where everything’s new and anything goes.” It certainly is! The Verge has attempted to reach out to Gucci Mane via his record label for a response, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.

Is Project Gucciberg anything more than a quick click and a lol? Well, not really. But that’s MSCHF’s business, and they’re very good at it. While listening to more than a few minutes of the resulting audio is a little disorientating, Greenberg suggests there may be unique benefits to the coming world of on-demand deepfake celebrity audiobooks.

“Every once in a while ... the extreme casualness of Gucci Mane’s narration really does put the text in a new light,” he says, speaking about the benefits of listening to the deepfake version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. “Gregor Samsa really comes across as just another guy who doesn’t want to get out of bed, you know?”