And watch it they do. According to web information company Alexa, WorldStar is ranked 187th in the United States in terms of traffic. To put that into context: More people visit WorldStarHipHop.com than CBS.com (#200) and New York Daily News (#232.) Daily traffic to the site is estimated at more than 2 million hits.
The young, and mostly male, audience is incredibly active, viewing on average five pages of video content for nearly 12 minutes a day.
A quick search of “WSHH” and “fights” on Twitter revels tons of devoted fans. “I could watch black people fight on WSHH for hoursssss,” writes one user. “I need a WSHH fight comp to be uploaded. I’m bored,” writes another.
The rise of WorldStarHipHop is an incredible business story for 38-year-old founder Lee “Q” O’Denat. O’Denat launched WorldStar in 2005 as a mixtape-download site (the hip hop part of WorldStarHipHop.) Today, the value of the site is estimated in the millions. Along with headlines like “Crazy: Stoner Gets Robbed At Gunpoint During Live Broadcast” and “NY Mother Arrested After Hiring Strippers For Her 16-Year-Old Son’s Birthday Party!” the site makes money from its videos that feature aspiring hip hop artists. While the shock-and-awe footage lures eyeballs, the rap industry hopefuls bring in the dollars, paying between $750 and $4,000 to have their work featured.
Rapper Brody Boy, 26, is one such artist trying to make a name for himself on WorldStar. The 22-year-old says he sees the site as a springboard for artists not signed to a major record label.
“There’s a lot of ratchetness on WorldStar,” he says. “A lot of the viewers go on there looking to see the riffraff but the site can be good for an up-and-coming artist. If you’re just on YouTube, you don’t get any exposure on there unless you’re playing with cats. People actually look at WorldStar.”
On the first day the video for his song “Incredible” aired on the site, it earned almost a million views by 2 p.m. Brody said he’d received more than a hundred emails – a few possibly from record labels.
In a March interview with The Source magazine, O’Denat claims that his site is mere reflection of the world its audience inhabits. “I wanted to capture the realness,” he said. “That’s what WSHH is all about, we are going to bring it to you live. Hip-hop culture was built on being real and representing your everyday good, bad and ugly.”
On the other hand, Rice calls the content on WorldStar anything but real.
“I’m not saying that these things aren’t happening in society. Very sadly, they do. But let’s not lose track that they’re abhorrent, isolated incidents. The culture isn’t necessarily violent and inhumane. Sites like WorldStarHipHop are just the squeaky wheel.”
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey on Twitter at @idxr