WorldStarHipHop founder Lee ‘Q’ O’Denat death due to natural causes, coroner rules

Rancho Santa GeFe resident Lee "Q" O'Denat returns home to Queens.

Rancho Santa Fe resident, and fabled founder of the popular and controversial street fight and music curated-video website, Lee “Q” O’Denat died of natural causes as a result of severe buildup of plaque near his heart and obesity, the San Diego County medical examiner’s office said in a full autopsy report released this week.

O’Denat, only 43, died suddenly on Jan. 23 of a heart attack at a Clairemont Mesa massage parlor, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office. Paramedics arrived and attempted to revive him with CPR, but he was pronounced dead at about 5:30 p.m Monday, Jan. 23. The cause of death later was announced as heart disease, with obesity considered a contributing factor, according to the coroner’s office.

The full report, released to the Los Angeles Times following a freedom of information request, detailed Q’s last day, beginning with a visit to the VIP Club, an Asian massage parlor/strip club at 4120 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Suite 101B.

After a 30-minute massage, the masseuse stepped out of the room so O’Denat could get dressed, according to the report.

When she returned five minutes later, she found him standing slumped forward, with his forehead resting against the wall, according to the report.

Paramedics moved O’Denat to the floor and attempted to revive him with CPR, but he was pronounced dead. The Rancho Santa Fe resident was survived by three children.

O’Denat’s sister told authorities that her brother had an unspecified heart problem for which he was taking medication, and that he had a myocardial infarction about eight years ago, according to the report.

During the autopsy, the investigator found a severe buildup of plaque in his cardiovascular system as well a metal stent near his right coronary artery. The investigators identified morbid obesity as a contributing factor. The 345-pound O’Denat also had an enlarged liver and fatty liver disease.

Toxicology tests showed the presence of cannabinoids from marijuana use but no other drugs or alcohol were detected.

The Hollis, Queens-bred founder of the influential music and urban culture website, the surprisingly soft-spoken and not surprisingly super-intelligent father of three school-age children had a known history of heart trouble, according to sources.

Q’s Rancho Santa Fe neighbors probably didn’t know much about his efforts, but despite the name, and its origins and popularity as a hip-hop news and gossip site, WorldStarHipHop is arguably most famous worldwide as a vast repository of shaky footage of street fights, submitted by smartphone-wielding onlookers.

Over the years, bystander footage of violence became one of WSHH’s primary calling cards

“WorldStar, at this point, is as much a kind of street-fight battle cry as it is a recognizable brand name.” O’Denat said.

“You’ve got a lot of people who stay indoors all the time, looking at their computers and what not,” O’Denat said. “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.”

Building WSHH into a Net juggernaut came in stages, O’Denat said.

Like others on the scene, he started by selling mixtapes, audio assemblages of commercially unavailable work of rappers distributed by hole-in-the-wall vendors around the city.

By the middle aughts, street-merchandised DVDs (the best-known of these appeared under the label Smack DVD) were including “behind-the-scenes” action such as rappers duking it out with other rappers and swatches of near porn.

Similar material was inevitably moved to the web, with the best-known purveyor. WorldStar followed in 2005, more or less appropriating OnSmash’s setup, engendering some bad feelings.

“Yeah,” O’Denat said, “there was some back-and-forth between us and them, some savage street-hacking attacks. It got hairy. Once we went 100 percent video, showing that original hood stuff, we prevailed.”

In years since, as the web has grown somewhat more centralized and social networks have come to dominate many of WSHH’s functions, the site and its social-media offshoots managed to maintain the charmingly garish attitude and aesthetic of an earlier era of the web.

Thanks to its strong brand recognition and O’Denat’s keen eye for viral video, WSHH has managed to maintain its presence near the center of the viral internet even as Vine and Instagram made sharing videos with wide audiences easy.

Its weekly Vine compilations, which collected from Vine and Instagram the kinds of videos that once would have appeared first on WSHH amateur routines, slapstick pranks, and, yes, street fights still found more than 2 million viewers week after week, until Vine shut down last year.

It is unclear what the future of WSHH will be, but given its influential presence near the center of the viral landscape, particularly among the black users that power much of internet culture, it’s unlikely to go away.

According to a 2015 New York Times profile, O’Denat was of Haitian heritage, raised by a single mom. An early job at a Circuit City store encouraged his love of computers.

“Hip-hop is for the sex, the drugs, the violence, the beefs, the culture,” O’Denat said. “That’s the competitiveness of hip-hop, so I felt like the site needed to be R-rated.”

He added: “People may be offended by some of the content, but, hey, the Internet is not a censorship boat. We’re the Carnival cruise, man. You don’t have to log on.”

One of his first web ventures was an e-commerce site selling mixtapes by his famous friend DJ Whoo Kid, known for his collaborations with Queens rapper 50 Cent.

O’Denat later harnessed the power of YouTube and crowd-sourced videos to create his wildly popular WorldstarHipHop website in 2005.

He often courted controversy by featuring street fights, stunts and sexual content, but he steadily grew his brand, attracted advertisers and evolved.

In recent years, O’Denat had sought deals to bring WorldStar further into the mainstream. MTV2 announced earlier this month that a series based on the site, “WorldStar TV,” was set to premiere Feb. 3. He was actively working on that latest venture in recent weeks.

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