The rapper's newest venture is giving fans some serious déjà vu

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February 07, 2019 12:35 PM

Ja Rule is coming under fire again, this time from critics who say he’s trying to profit off a new booking app with eerie similarities to the product that led to the disastrous Fyre Festival.

The 42-year-old rapper, who co-founded the Fyre Festival alongside entrepreneur Billy McFarland, announced on Twitter the launch of ICONN (or Ice Connect) — a “celebrity entertainment booking and concierge service” that, according to its website, is “made for the culture by those who live it.”

“Created by industry veterans,” the app allows users to easily hire talent like Cardi B, Ashanti, Fat Joe, DMX, Snoop Dogg, Shawn Mendes, Cassie, Future and more with the click of a button.

“We are working to solve the decades-old problems that entertainers have had with negotiating terms, executing agreements and getting paid,” the site boasts.

RELATED: Ashanti Talks Ja Rule’s Fyre Fiasco: ‘You Have to Be Man Enough to Admit When You Make a Mistake’

It’s a good problem to try and fix, but anyone who watched either of the two new documentaries about Fyre Festival knows it’s something Ja Rule and McFarland were working on before their festival fell apart.

As Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened and Hulu’s Fyre Fraud outline, the app back then was called FYRE, with the 2017 music festival created as a promotional tool to show the app’s power. App developers worked on their product concurrently yet separately from festival organizers, who touted the Fyre Festival as a luxury experience on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma with performers like Blink-182 and Migos and high-profile social media influencers including Kendall Jenner.

Johnny Louis/Getty Images

RELATED: From Unpaid Workers to Death Threats: 5 Shocking Things We Learned From the Fyre Fest Docs

Of course, that was not the case. Rather than the deluxe accommodations that were advertised, guests were provided with flimsy tents and cheese sandwiches. One person in attendance wrote on Twitter that there was barely “any food or water or security or electricity.” Their accounts caused a social media stir.

The event was quickly cancelled, with most of the artists pulling out due to serious organizational flaws and ramshackle conditions. Guests were stranded trying to get home. Many of the people who worked on the event, including local workers, were never paid. When the smoke cleared, McFarland’s company (Fyre Media, Inc) was toast, with the FYRE booking app getting pulled down in its process.

Billy McFarland and Ja Rule
Patrick McMullan via Getty; Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan/Getty

RELATED: Ja Rule Defends Himself Following Pair of Fyre Fest Docs: ‘I Too Was Hustled, Scammed, Bamboozled’

Though McFarland was eventually sentenced to six years in jail for defrauding investors in October 2018, Ja Rule has mostly emerged unscathed — denying all liability in the incidents.

“I had an amazing vision to create a festival like NO OTHER!!! I would NEVER SCAM or FRAUD anyone what sense does that make???” he wrote on Twitter in January. “I too was hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, lead [sic] astray!!!”

The “What’s Love?” rapper also posted on Instagram, paying tribute to MaryAnne Rolle, a restaurant owner who claimed in the Netflix documentary that she lost her entire life savings because of the short-lived festival.

“My heart goes out to this lovely lady,” he wrote. “MaryAnne Rolle we’ve never met but I’m devastated that something that was meant to be amazing, turn out to be such a disaster and hurt so many ppl… SORRY to anyone who has been negatively effected [sic] by the festival…”

Despite the visual differences of the FYRE and ICONN apps, fans have still seen the similarities.

You couldn’t have seriously thought this was a good idea,” one wrote.

“Still can’t believe that after conning guests out of thousands and investors out of millions, Ja Rule decided to name is comeback venture ‘ICONN’ ” added another.

Others mocked Ja Rule for the app’s Fyre Festival connections. “I’ll book you. It’s a concert at Pablo Escobar’s old island,” joked one. “Can’t share any details right now. The money will come after the gig ;)”

Meanwhile, after his jail sentencing in October 2018, McFarland expressed his sorrow for the incident to PEOPLE.

“I am incredibly sorry for my collective actions and will right the wrongs I have delivered to my family, friends, partners, associates and, you, the general public,” McFarland said. “I’ve always sought — and dreamed — to accomplish incredible things by pushing the envelope to deliver for a common good, but I made many wrong and immature decisions along the way and I caused agony. As a result, I’ve lived every day in prison with pain, and I will continue to do so until I am able to make up for some of this harm through work and actions that society finds respectable.”

Ja Rule had apologized on Twitter while the Fyre Fest debacle was unfolding in April 2017, posting a screenshot of a Notes app that read, “We are working right now on getting everyone of [sic] the island SAFE that is my immediate concern… I will make a statement soon I’m heartbroken at this moment my partners and I wanted this to be an amazing event it was NOT A SCAM…”

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