SAN DIEGO — Lee O’Denat, who founded the popular, “R-rated,” website WorldStarHipHop.com, has died in San Diego. He was 43.
O’Denat was at a local business on Monday when he became unresponsive, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office. Paramedics couldn’t save him and he died at the scene.
The business was a massage parlor, police told the Los Angeles Times.
The cause of death was heart disease — specifically, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease — with obesity a contributing factor, according to the medical examiner.
O’Denat — a father of three known to fans and friends as “Q” — “was a brilliant businessman who championed urban culture, ultimately creating the largest hip-hop website in the world,” said a posting announcing his death on the site’s Facebook page.
He also was “one of the nicest, most generous persons to ever grace this planet,” the posting said. “We will miss his hearty laugh and warm spirit. WorldStarHipHop will continue in its various endeavors. We ask that you remember Q in your prayers and raise a toast to the sky in his name.”
Born in Queens, New York, O’Denat founded WorldStarHipHop.com in 2005. The video content aggregator offers hip-hop and viral videos, often of outrageous, tabloid-style events. One clip available as of Tuesday was titled: “Kid Punches A Racist Homeless Man A Few Times For Calling Him The N-Word!”
The site has taken heat for sexual and violent content, but it has been immensely popular with urban teenagers and young adults. At one point, it was counted as having a million or more visitors daily.
A television series based on the site was scheduled to debut next month on MTV2.
The site inspired the shout “World Star!,” yelled when something — often a fight — is worthy of being recorded and submitted to the site.
O’Denat was unapologetic about the raw material.
“Hip-hop is for the sex, the drugs, the violence, the beefs, the culture,” O’Denat told The New York Times in 2015. “That’s the competitiveness of hip-hop, so I felt like the site needed to be R-rated.”
“People may be offended by some of the content, but, hey, the internet is not a censorship boat,” he said. “We’re the Carnival cruise, man. You don’t have to log on.”
The site also occasionally has gotten into trouble for using copyrighted material without credit. Rapper 50 Cent won a 2009 lawsuit against O’Denat for using his image without permission.