Lee “Q” O’Denat told an interviewer in 2011, 9-to-5 people love to see misery.”
The Queens, New York-born entrepreneur would know. He founded World Star Hip Hop, the internet’s biggest hub for videos that often show the violent side of human behavior, often far from the safety of a cubicle.
“People want to say, ‘I thought I had it bad, but look at these people.’ That’s what sells,” O’Denat told Vibe in that interview.
With World Star Hip Hop, O’Denat — who died Monday at age 43 — gave the internet a site unlike any other. World Star’s taste and methods may have been repulsive to some, but it’s undeniable that hordes went online looking for that “misery.”
O’Denat’s site started off in 2005 as a place for rappers to debut their mixtapes. Soon, mobile phones, streaming video, and social media changed the internet, and World Star capitalized. It found a new direction. The site’s staffers and community members are guilty of ripping videos and uploading them to World Star, often without proper attribution. Many are violent brawls or other bad decisions caught on video.
World Star changed how we look for those videos. Instead of waiting for a brawl to show up on Twitter or seeing screenshots and using Google to find it, World Star became a destination for the endless queue of the internet’s best trash. There are plenty of horrible things online, and O’Denat’s website posted a lot of them.
Embracing the internet’s viral content, the site’s reputation for posting fight videos even spawned a catchphrase of sorts. Any fistfight outside a bar or high school or in any other public space prompted a shouted, enthusiastic refrain. “World Star! World Star!” might be heard as somebody invariably got their ass kicked.
World Star was a clearinghouse of horrible shit, but various metrics show that its desktop and mobile traffic has leveled off in recent years from its cultural peak in the late 2000s as social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine occupied larger percentages of users’ time online.
Lots of the time, it seems like people who upload some of the most ludicrous videos don’t realize just how bad they are until others start paying attention. When clips such as the Sharkeisha falcon punch started being shared everywhere, uploaders often try to quell the response by deleting.
For as bad as some of the videos were, World Star can still be counted on to have the full video and probably a few meme remixes. O’Denat led the site as the king of stuff online that’s inevitably going to be taken down.
World Star’s lack of discretion goes even beyond mere teen-on-teen violence. Earlier this week, there was news of an African man drowning in Venice’s Grand Canal as people videotaped the incident. Footage of the incident was scrubbed from most of the internet, but World Star was on it. Its version has more than 234,000 views and a flood of comments, while rips on YouTube hardly have 700. There’s a World Star community of users that ephemeral YouTube rips can’t build.
In an age where there’s so much internet clutter, it can feel like every meme or trend is fleeting. But O’Denat’s legacy might just be that 9-to-5ers continue to see the worst shit in parts of town they’ll never go.