SAN DIEGO — Lee “Q” O’Denat, founder of the influential culture and entertainment website WorldStarHipHop.com, died suddenly of heart failure at age 43 at a Clairemont massage parlor, authorities reported Tuesday.
O’Denat, a Del Mar resident, became unresponsive at the business in the 4100 block of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard early Monday evening, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. Medics tried in vain to revive him before pronouncing him dead shortly after 5:30 p.m., the county agency reported.
An autopsy determined that O’Denat died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, with obesity as a contributing condition.
O’Denat started his website, which posts and premieres hip-hop videos and mixtapes along with other viral content, in 2005, according to Billboard.
WorldStar issued a statement confirming O’Denat’s death and praising him as “a brilliant businessman who championed urban culture, ultimately creating the largest hip-hop website in the world.”
“But more than that, he was a devoted father and one of the nicest, most generous persons to ever grace this planet,” the message stated.
“Hip-hop is for the sex, the drugs, the violence, the beefs, the culture. That’s the competitiveness of hip-hop, so I felt like the site needed to be R-rated,” O’Denat told The New York Times on Nov. 2, 2015. “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.”
While WorldStarHipHop finds content from websites such as YouTube and Facebook, O’Denat said he hoped the website could eventually generate original content.
Celebrities took to social media Tuesday to offer their condolences.
“You were always pleasant & positive through all the madness. You built a brand that changed the course of culture,” said rapper T.I. “Your legacy will live on. ”
“RIP to my guy Q,” wrote Charlamagne Tha God.
“RIP TO A GREAT PERSON! @qworldstar My brother u did a lot for the hip hop blog community.. it’s unreal..” rapper Sean Kingston wrote on Instagram.
O’Denat grew up in Hollis, Queens where he witnessed the early days of hip-hop culture.
“I used to hang out on Jamaica Avenue,” he told The New York Times. “L L Cool J shopped there, Run-DMC.”
Raised by a single mother, O’Denat began working at 14. He got a job at Circuit City where he discovered his passion for computers.
“I was telling people, ‘This is the future,’ ” he told The New York Times. “They were like, ‘This is going nowhere.’ They laughed at me.”
After starting several websites, O’Denat saw a new opportunity with the creation of YouTube. He decided to create a similar website, but with only hip-hop inspired content.
He leaves behind three children.