Ja Rule has worn many hats since his late-’90s/early-’00s heyday: ex-drug dealer, rapper, actor, entrepreneur. He may be adding a new one after Thursday night: scammer.
The former rap superstar took to social media to help promote a music festival in Exumas, Bahamas, called Fyre Festival. Born of a partnership between Ja and entrepreneur Billy MacFarland, the music festival was to take place on Fyre Cay, with tickets costing anywhere from $1,500 to as much as $250,000 for packages supposedly including airfare and luxury villas amongst other amenities. Headliners for the festival were supposed to include G.O.O.D Music, Major Lazer, Blink 182, Disclosure, Rae Sremmurd, and Migos.
However, would-be partygoers were instead greeted with unkempt festival grounds strewn with garbage, with little in the way of the accommodations they’d been led to expect. The “gourmet meals” they were promised consisted of cheese sandwiches, travelers were stranded at Miami and Exhumas airports, and security personnel were non-existent. Forget about the “Duo” package that looks like a photo out of a travel magazine; the only thing on the island to sleep in were tiny, flimsily-constructed camp tents.
Organizers failed to provide for the performers as well; Blink 182 pulled out, informing fans on Twitter that the festival hadn’t accommodated needed production and performance equipment in advance of their set preparations. To make matters worse, “organizers missed a series of deadlines to make advance payments to performers, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It all added up to one big disaster in the making, and according to The Fashion Law, the organizers issued a statement, saying “Due to over capacity on the island, we need to cancel all existing flights to ensure the safety of our guests,” before ultimately canceling the festival altogether, while — get this — refusing refunds. They eventually took to Instagram to call all the complications “growing pains” and mentioned that “revised itinerary information will be shared soon for the remainder of this weekend and weekend two.”
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Things got off to an unexpected start at day one of Fyre Festival. FOR THOSE CURRENTLY ON GREAT EXUMA We are working to comfortably accommodate guests and deliver a great experience. If you have needs, please head to the "BLUE HOUSE" on the main festival site. Security, first aid, and Fyre Festival staff are here to assist immediately, 24/7. FOR THOSE WITH PENDING TRAVEL TO THE EXUMAS TOMORROW Due to circumstances beyond our control, and in line with a culture of safety, all inbound charter flights to the Exumas have been canceled. Your ticket and any funds uploaded to your RFID band will be refunded. Thank you for bearing with us as we work through the growing pains that every first year event experiences. Revised itinerary information will be shared soon for the remainder of this weekend and weekend two.
The marooned festival hopefuls were, at the time of this writing, without food, shelter, or transportation back to their countries of origin, and reportedly fights have broken out for what scant resources remain.
Late night Twitter was abuzz with the news, with many calling the festival a “fraud” and a “scam.” The account @FyreFraud popped up to issue news about the conditions on the island, contact information for the US Embassy in Nassau to assist patrons in getting back to the States, and details about a potential class action lawsuit. Hashtags #fyrefestival and #dumpsterfyre trended, with users turning to Twitter to vent, seek help, and — of course — get jokes off at the expense of both the potential scammers and their alleged victims.
As of writing, McFarland has not issued a statement about the breakdown of the event, and other promoters — including influencers like models Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, and Kendall Jenner — had not issued statements using any of their various social media platforms. The ramifications for this are huge; not only will people be looking at how influencers are used to promote shady products without oversight, festival culture itself may find itself firmly in the spotlight as more details come out.
Check out more horror stories from Fyre Fest below.