World Star Hip-Hop's Founder Defends His Site
Lee "Q" O'Denat, is the founder of WorldStarHipHop.com, a site once known mainly for rap videos that is now synonymous with grainy urban street fights. (When one breaks out nowadays, you can bet smartphones will come out and someone will yell "World Star!")
Max Bell Lee "Q" O'Denat
Q recently came to L.A. for a round of press interviews, with outlets as hoity-toity as NPR's Marketplace, and, well, us. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, he won't reveal how much his site is worth, but it's clearly extremely high-trafficked; he says he makes most of his money from rappers and their companies, who sponsor videos and ads. Indeed, those dollars that once made magazines like The Source as fat as phone books are now going into his pockets.
For our meeting we journey to the swanky Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. He shows up 30 minutes late, and we talk in a private cabana by the pool.
Just under 40, he wears a black tee, Knicks hat, and camo shorts. Oh, and diamond earrings, a pinky ring, Rolex, designer shades, and two iced out crosses.
Born in Hollis, Queens and of Haitian descent, Q was raised by his mother and dropped out of high school in 9th grade, founding WorldStar in 2005. Until a few years ago, he often struggled to pay the rent: "In the beginning, there was no money for me. The site was risqué and advertisers were hesitant... We were number one and I wasn't making a lot of money on the site."
WorldStar began as a digital download site for hip-hop mixtapes. Then, after a hack crashed it for several months in 2007, Q re-launched it as a video aggregator. It's simple and somewhat antiquated layout hasn't changed much since, though he says he has plans to update it.
Its pages are filled, according to Q, with "the good, the bad, and the ugly." The violent street fights are often user submitted, and they're what most gets folks talking. They're routinely lurid and shocking; and for those short on time there are compilations available! Q's defense of this content is not unlike how gangsta rappers defend their art: He's holding a mirror to society, and showing what's really out there.
But if there's one thing that the far left and far right can agree upon, it's that WorldStar videos promote violence and dangerous behavior. Bill O'Reilly wants the site taken down, and Afrika Bambaataa's Universal Zulu Nation has had strong words for Q.