‘CNN Of The Ghetto’: WorldStarHipHop Becoming YouTube For Urban Violence
ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — A Chinese restaurant explodes into a full-blown riot. People are hitting each other with chairs. Glasses and plates are thrown. The bystander who is filming the chaos repeats the mantra over and over: “World Star! World Star! World Star!”
What the cameraman is calling out is the final destination for his impromptu documentary: Worldstarhiphop.com.
WorldStarHipHop — or WSHH for short — is often referred to as an “internet cesspool.” However, the founder of the site, Lee O’Denat, told Vibe his website is “the CNN of the ghetto.”
O’Denat, more popularly known as “Q,” started the site in 2005 as a way to distribute mix-tapes to the hip-hop community.
Hackers destroyed the site soon after it was launched. O’Denat then reopened the site as a content aggregator.
Since its reopening, WorldStarHipHop has become the home for uncensored fight videos and public sex acts.
The videos brought the site unrivaled popularity. WSHH receives about 4 million views a month and is the 269th most visited site in the U.S.
But with the popularity comes scrutiny. A number of the more violent videos have lead to arrests and police are now beginning to monitor WSHH for leads.
One of those cases involved Philip Struthers in Tampa, Fla. When Struthers’ son, Jake, got into a fight in front of their house, Struthers cheered and shouted for Jake to “knock him out” and “slam his head on the ground.”
A neighbor reported the incident to police and the video was uncovered on WorldStarHipHop entitled: “A Pops, What-Cha Want Me Ta-Do Ta-Him Again?”
Larry McKinnon, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department, told CBS Atlanta that the website helped verify that the video was legitimate and that it helped to identify who was involved.
“We pretty much rely on the public to report on those videos and they are pretty good about sending them to us,” McKinnon said, adding that a lot of the videos they get are from schools.
“If a school finds it they will flip it to us.”
Struthers was arrested for child abuse and was forbidden to see his children.
Another case involved a young man that was jumped in Atlanta because the attackers thought he was gay.
Brandon White was going to a local convenience store when members of a gang calling themselves “Pittsburgh Jack City” ambushed him. In the video, the attackers said over and over again, “No (gays) in Jack City!”
The video of the beating showed White being punched and beaten by several men. At one point, when White was on the ground, one of his attackers slammed a car tire on his head.
White never contacted the police, but when the video made it onto WSHH and went viral, he then came out about the beating.
In a press conference, he called his attackers “monsters” and that they “wanted to make themselves look brave and strong.”
Four arrests have been made in the savage beating of White, and a federal investigation has been opened to see if a hate crime was committed.
O’Denat is unrepentant about the content that WSHH produces. He often states that his site is just a reflection of reality. O’Denat says he’s “just the messenger” in an interview with New York Magazine.
“You’ve got a lot of people who stay indoors all the time, looking at their computers and whatnot,” O’Denat told the magazine. “They don’t know what is going on right outside their house, in their backyards. We’re showing the reality of the situation, giving them a dose.”
The message is profitable, although how much is the question. WSHH has over 500 million impressions a month and the site generates revenue via advertising and charges $650 to $2,500 to upload promotional videos, and $5,000 for X-rated clips.
O’Denat isn’t talking about specific numbers, though. He remains vague about how much he’s making.
He told the magazine that he’s not “Romney rich, not yet,” but it’s well known that he does socialize at the VIP lounges of high profile night clubs and lives in four-star hotels.
By all indications WSHH is only growing, and O’Denat is proud of his burgeoning media empire. He understands the element that WHSS attracts and he welcomes it.
“I’m like Black Jesus, I talk to everybody, the scum of the earth,” he told Vibe. “I’m down there in the mud. I treat everybody the same, from Puffy to the nobody with $500 for a video. That’s what people love about the site.”
CBS Atlanta reached out to O’Denat for comment.