Lee “Q” O’Denat, the founder of the immensely popular site WorldStarHipHop.com, died Monday at 43, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed to CNN. The cause of death has been listed as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
The site, which O’Denat started in 2005, became a thriving aggregator. In a profile of its founder, the New York Times dubbed it “a YouTube filtered through the lens of hip-hop culture — a grab bag of rap videos, celebrity interviews, sports clips, super cuts and the latest viral sensation.”
It also became pop culture short hand.
The term “WorldStar” came to mean something that should be filmed for posterity’s sake.
Actor Donald Glover as his rap persona Childish Gambino recorded the tune “II. Worldstar” with the lyrics “Yeah, mother***er, take your phone out/To record this/Ain’t nobody can ignore this.”
But despite the site’s popularity O’Denat faced criticism for the negative behavior showcased in the videos on WorldStar, which many people felt reflected poorly on the African American community.
Those who captured images of violence on their cell phones could often be heard yelling “WorldStar!” both in homage and in the hope that their clip would make it on to the site.
“I accept people put me down, and also blame me for their misery and blame society for their misery,” O’Denat told the publication Noisey in 2013. “But I think it’s that we’re showing people what’s going on. People are fighting. That’s what it is. Get over it.”
Aligning his brand so closely with hip hop led to success for his company and caught the eye of MTV2 which is set to air a new series, “World Star TV,” beginning next month.
According to a 2015 New York Times profile, O’Denat was raised by a single mother in the Hollis, Queens neighborhood in New York City.
As a teen he dropped out of high school. He fell in love with computers after landing a job at Circuit City and that led to his entrance into the digital space that would make his one of the most visited sites for a time.
His first online ventures – a porn site and an e-commerce site – never really took off.
But WorldStarHipHop did so well that he told the New York Times he once turned down an offer of $40 million for a 40 percent stake.
“I don’t believe in luck,” he said. “It’s hard work.”
– CNN’s Chris Boyette contributed reporting.