- Rapper and Fyre Festival co-founder Ja Rule spoke at marketing convention in Raleigh, NC, on Thursday.
- He told attendees that people who purchased tickets to the festival were dweebs, outcasts, nerds, and geeks, and said that if he had really been instrumental in its planning, more black Americans would have attended.
- Rule, real name Jeffrey Atkins, did take credit for the festival’s Instagram marketing campaign, which featured a series of orange tiles.
- Rule compared working with McFarland to handing a baby to R. Kelly. “I handed my baby over to Billy and he completely destroyed it,” he said.
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RALEIGH, N.C. – If there’s any silver lining to the doomed Fyre Festival, co-founder Ja Rule said this week, it’s that black Americans weren’t targeted in the scam.
The 43-year-old rapper, whose legal name is Jeffrey Atkins, was recently dropped from a $100 million class-action suit against Fyre Festival organizers, but he’s had a harder time clearing his name in the court of public opinion. So on Thursday, with his attorney, Ryan Smith, standing in the wings, Atkins took the stage at a marketing convention in Raleigh, N.C. to defend his role in the debacle.
At one point, as proof of his innocence in the scam, Atkins pointed to the festival victims’ race and expressed his relief that they were largely young, white millennials.
- Fyre Festival/YouTube
“It’s so crazy that I get slammed by this, and I get slammed by my people hard by this, my black people. I love them so much, but they slam me, and I’m like, ‘It wasn’t even promoted to my people, and y’all are blaming me,'” Atkins said. “Do you think if Ja Rule was the guy that really was pulling it all in, you think I wouldn’t have invited my people? No. But on the flipside of that, you know what I say is so crazy, I say, I am happy that my peoples were not the peoples stranded on the island.”
(Atkins did later acknowledge Maryanne Rolle, a black Bahamian who spent $50,000 of her own money to feed the people stranded on the island, saying, “I feel bad for this lady.” She has since raised more than $230,000 on GoFundMe, which she says she’ll share with the hundreds of Bahamians who worked for months on the site without compensation.)
Laying the blame instead at the feet of co-founder Billy McFarland, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for fraud, Atkins explained that the festival’s marketing used the concept of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, to target “the dweeb, the outcast, the nerd, the geek,” who “wants to be a part of something that’s cool” by using endorsements from celebrities and influencers like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Bieber.
“Everybody, even if it’s amongst your own small circles, you want to be the guy that says, ‘I’m the in-guy. I put you on to XYZ,’ and Fyre Festival fed off of that,” Atkins said. “Billy understood that millennial audience, those kids that, kind of like him, grew up a little socially awkward, not the A-crowd kid, but wanted to be a part of that crowd, that has the money, and wanted to be – so, he knew how to promote that.”
But a few minutes later, Atkins also took credit for the marketing, claiming that he was the inventor of the famous orange tile campaign, which Oren Aks, a former FuckJerry employee, has also claimed credit for. (A source who worked on the orange tile campaign disputes both claims, saying it was Fyre CMO Grant Margolin who came up with the concept.)
But on Thursday, Atkins said definitively, “The orange tile was my idea,” inspired by blackout campaigns he said he’d seen previously on Instagram.
“So I was like, you know that’s a dope thing. We should do, our color was orange, we should do orange blackout, or orange-out if you will, and get my celebrity friends to post at the same time, and they said, ‘Yeah we should do that.’ And that was kind of the start of the marketing campaign,” Atkins said. “So I sat and started hitting my friends with lots and lots of followers, and it worked very well, because as people were scrolling up their timeline at this hour, they were seeing all of the coolest people posting this orange tile. That led people to say, ‘I have to be a part of this,’ not even knowing what it was.”
Atkins did not give any credit to the Fyre marketing team, FuckJerry or the venerable PR firm 42West, all of which collaborated on the campaign, internal documents show.
He did, however, express his chagrin that “If the festival would have been a success, they’d probably be teaching this marketing at colleges.”
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Atkins, who claims he’s been approached to put on other festivals since Fyre’s implosion, says he still thinks the “vision” was strong and compared working with McFarland to leaving a child alone with the alleged pedophile and serial rapist R Kelly, who is currently facing federal charges for sex crimes and racketeering.
“If you have vision, and I don’t know if there’s any entrepreneurs out here, people who have the vision to do something amazing, bring something amazing to the world, you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to be hands-on with it, you’ve got to treat it like your child,” Atkins said. “You wouldn’t let somebody go… It’s the equivalent of, ‘I let R Kelly take my kid and run.’ I’m sorry. R Kelly’s a… I know him. I didn’t mean R Kelly, alright, but you get what I’m saying. You get what the f— I’m saying. But for me that’s what it was, I handed my baby over to Billy and he completely destroyed it.”
- Read more:
- Netflix’s ‘Fyre’ director says Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland could make a comeback when he gets out of prison
- Netflix’s ‘Fyre’ director hits back at Hulu’s whitewashing criticism and says the Fyre Festival founder wanted $125,000 for an interview
- Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and other models who appeared in the viral Fyre Festival ad could be forced to reveal how much they got paid to promote it
- After $200,000 was raised for the Fyre Festival caterer who never got paid, a new GoFundMe is trying to repay the construction workers who were stiffed
- A fire broke out at the Coachella music festival Saturday morning, and people started comparing it to FYRE Festival