Many of the profiles about the late WorldStarHipHop founder Lee “Q” O’Denat include two of his most common defenses: That the site features the “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of urban culture, and how it’s the “CNN of the ghetto.”
Whether you truly believe WorldStar is simply Chuck D as a millennial with a cellphone camera is on you. But what’s objectively true is that the website gave the people what they wanted: Notably, music exclusives, viral bits of comedy, violent fight videos, and sex acts. Though it’s past its prime in 2018, WorldStar was more ubiquitous than your favorite blogs during the height of its popularity.
In 2008, cellphone footage was becoming the primary medium, and social media was on its way to becoming the standard way of connecting. WorldStar capitalized on those innovations and dished out viral content at an expeditious rate. The famed videos often featured a victim, but the fact their popularity perhaps says more about society than the site’s creator.
“People want to watch an ugly side of someone then blame us for showing it, but what about the people actually doing it?” Q said in 2014. “Why click on it? It’s like, why watch porno on HBO at midnight? You have the choice to watch what you want. The remote control is in your hand.” With Q’s logic, WorldStarHipHop is only giving us what we want.
Q left behind a complicated legacy. According to some, Worldstar championed urban culture; others questioned whether that image of urban culture was worth selling in the first place, especially if it confirmed black people’s worst stereotypes to some. Either way, he created a cultural phenomenon, and we’ll always remember him for that. From its begins as a G-Unit mixtape seller to one of the internet’s most controversial outlets, this is a brief history of WorldStarHipHop.