CULTURE

Today Is Ja Rule's 11th Birthday

Though he'll be 44 years old, the rapper is one of a handful of celebrities celebrating a leap day birthday.

James Devaney/Getty Images

Being born on February 29th comes with a special kind of strangeness—almost like a crappy superpower.

Like Robin Williams' character in Jack, you seem to age at four times the rate you should. Time passes as it would for everyone else, but you only get to celebrate a birthday every four years. So while, to the rest of us, Ja Rule appears to be 44 years old today, the rapper who brought us hits such as "Always on Time" will be celebrating his 11th birthday 33 years late. Perhaps the judge (assuming he was very confused) took that into consideration this summer when he let Ja Rule, AKA Jeffrey Atkins, off the hook in the $100 million class action lawsuit against the organizers of the Fyre Festival. He may have been a little irresponsible, but who's gonna punish a ten-year-old like that?

Tony Robbins

Among other celebrity leap day birthdays are motivational speaker/(alleged) sexual predator Tony Robbins, who will be celebrating his 15th birthday at 60-years old—in another 12 years he'll be old enough to be tried as an adult!—and Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who weighs in at an impressive 232 lbs—all the more stunning when you consider he will be celebrating his 7th birthday. Supermodel and General Hospital actor Antonio Sabato Jr. was also born on February 29th, and will be celebrating his 12th birthday—hope that doesn't interfere with his political aspirations!—while deceased actor Dennis Farina (Get Shorty, Law & Order) would have celebrated his 19th today. Happy birthday, guys!

This concludes this edition of Useless Celebrity Facts that Are Half True and One Third Interesting. You can go back to your life now.

Culture News

Ja Rule Needs a Friend (Who's Not in Prison)

At a recent show, the rapper urged the crowd to scream obscenities a him. Was this a cry for help or he just realized it's not 2000 anymore?

So, Ja Rule wants to clear the air with his fans.

On Friday, he paused his New Jersey show to ask if anyone had happened to watch the documentaries that painted him as a predatory con artist. The crowd generally responded with the sound that precedes a drawing and quartering in a town square. But Ja Rule was pleased, saying, "Ya'll might be a little mad… so get it out your system, 'cause we ain't gonna do this the rest of the year! Get your middle fingers up!" And like everyone's favorite camp counselor who smoked excellent weed, he made sure the crowd was flipping him off before he led a chant, "Let me hear you say… fuck you Ja Rule!"

After he finished the show without more fanfare, the anti-Ja Rule chant was posted to Instagram, where people were generally confused for the following reasons:

A) Ja Rule still has concerts?

B) Is Ja Rule 50 Cent now?

C) What songs does Ja Rule perform in 2019?

D) How much does Ja Rule miss Jennifer Lopez?

E) Wouldn't New Jersey chant "Fuck you" to anybody?

Ja Rule seems lonely for friends these days. With Fyre Festival's planners facing a $100 million class action lawsuit and Billy McFarland serving a six-year prison sentence for fraud, everyone involved in the giant con, including Ja Rule, has pleaded the fifth. But while Hulu's documentary only hinted that the rapper was deeply involved, Netflix highlighted Ja Rule's insight both before and after the fiasco. Both features have reignited public backlash against those involved, including the 42-year-old rapper, whose bland and pandering apologies convey a man who just wants to be liked.

In the immediate aftermath of Fyre Festival in 2017, Ja Rule took to Twitter to assuage people's worries about the young attendees' safety and, above all, deny any responsibility whatsoever. He posted, "We are working right now on getting everyone of [sic] the island SAFE that is my immediate concern...I'm working to make it right by making sure everyone is refunded...I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT...but I'm taking responsibility I'm deeply sorry to everyone who was inconvenienced by this."

As of January 2019, no Fyre Festival attendee had received a refund from the festival organizers. A few had managed to successfully file disputes with their credit card companies to remove Fyre Fest charges as fraudulent. But in his defense, Ja Rule has been busy this year, as he'll soon begin touring with Ashanti. While he may not need the money as badly as the people who lost thousands at Fyre Fest, he does need his fans; they're his only friends who aren't in jail.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Film Reviews

Netflix's "Fyre" Is a High Class Documentary

5 ways Fyre is higher quality than Hulu's Fyre Festival documentary.

Medium

Hulu may have released its Fyre Festival documentary first, but Netflix's Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is of a higher class.

Despite the questionable ethics of both production teams, director Chris Smith does justice to the Netflix legacy of well-structured documentaries with a human interest payoff. In contrast, Hulu's co-directors Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason aim to make lofty connections between Fyre Festival and millennial ethos that are sound on paper but a messy visual argument.

Both documentaries acknowledge the media storm of schadenfreude that resulted from one attendee's now-iconic Twitter post of the festival's "gourmet" dinner: "Literally slices of bread, cheese, and salad with no dressing." Of course, on the surface, the spectacle of rich, entitled millennials paying exorbitant ticket prices for a luxury music festival in the Bahamas and ending up sleeping in FEMA tents amused the public. However, both Hulu and Netflix examine the serious repercussions of the scandal and what it signified about our culture.

Here are the five key points that Fyre hits home better than Hulu's documentary.

1. Netflix Shows What Hulu Only Tells

At first, Hulu scoring an exclusive interview with Billy McFarland (conducted before he was sentenced to six years in jail for fraud) seemed to give it an advantage. However, Fyre Fraud's cobbled together footage from over eight hours interviewing a "compulsive liar" gives the narcissistic conman exactly what he seeks: attention with no substance. On the other hand, the clear upside of co-producing Fyre with Jerry Media is Netflix's extensive behind-the-scenes footage, which spans from the festival's early planning stages to McFarland's release on bail in a fraudulently acquired penthouse.

ComingSoon.net

2. Ja Rule Knew

Among both documentaries' many scenes of McFarland and Ja Rule partying on the beach, Ja Rule's oft-repeated toast captures the naivety and blind-sightedness of the inexperienced festival planners: "Here's to living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and fucking like porn stars!" However, while Fyre Fraud leaves a little room to speculate whether or not Ja Rule was kept in the dark about the disastrous planning, the interviews and recorded phone calls featured in Fyre show his frank denial of the facts he was exposed to.

In fact, the release of Netflix's documentary drove Ja Rule to post a slew of tweets that claimed he "had an amazing vision to create a festival like no other" but he was a victim, too. He posted, "I too was hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, lead astray!!!"


3. Everyone Denies Who Really Planned the Festival

Aside from Ja Rule's back and forth about his level of involvement, the festival's marketing company, Jerry Media (a.k.a FuckJerry on Instagram), has been accused of co-conspiring in the fraud. This is the first point of direct contention between the Hulu and Netflix productions, as Furst and Nason feature a former employee of Jerry Media who recounts how the company propagated a known lie–including deleting all Instagram comments that alluded to the truth.

In stark contrast, Netflix co-produced Fyre with the remaining members of Jerry Media. They claim they were also victimized and misled by Billy McFarland, with their interviews dotted with passive language like, "It was decided by someone...I don't know who."

Complex

4. The Disaster Up Close

For a real dose of schadenfreude, Netflix is the way to go. The combination of behind-the-scenes interviews and attendees' first-person footage paints the full, collapsing picture of the luxury villas and personal yachts the guests expected. However, Fyre's extended coverage of the fallout also highlights the more serious reality that hundreds of young adults were stranded on an island with no food, water, or transportation home. Footage of the campsite after nightfall with no light sources shows how rightfully the event was later described as "post-apocalyptic."

Page Six

5. Bahamians Were the Real Victims

To give Fyre Fraud its due, Hulu's documentarians use Fyre Festival as a dowsing rod to uncover the source of status and social media obsessions. In Furst and Nason's words, "McFarland's staggering ambition metastasized in a petri dish of late-stage capitalism, corporate greed, and predatory branding, all weaponized by our fear of missing out." One interviewee makes a pointed comment aligning Trumpian politics with the festival's deception: "It's a good time to be a conman in America."

However, Chris Smith's team tackles the human interest angle of how much the Bahamian economy and local workforce were damaged and exploited. Fyre underlines the dozens of laborers who worked nearly day and night for empty promises of pay. Interviews even detail how some of the festival planners felt the need to disguise themselves in order to escape the area, because in the immediate fallout, "mobs" of workers were demanding overdue pay (they never received any).

RolleThe Tribtune

One of the most memorable interviewees is Maryann Rolle, the owner of Exuma Point restaurant who unexpectedly received Fyre Festival's first wave of guests with less than half an hour's notice. This was due to the fact that the intended campsite was drenched, unprepared, and inhospitable on the first morning that guests arrived. Rolle seems genuinely pained during her interview, saying, "I had ten people working with me directly. They were just preparing food all day and all night, 24 hours. I had to pay all those people. I went through about $50,000 of my savings that I could have had. They just wiped it out, and never looked back."

In fact, Gabrielle Bluestone, one of the producers of Fyre, took to Twitter the day after the documentary was released to share Rolle's (legitimate) Go Fund Me page to pay back the expenses incurred by Fyre Festival. As of Monday, donations totaled at over $137,000.



Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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