When You Wish Upon a Worldstar
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the cameraphone is the most important innovation of this nascent millenium. Consider the presence of video, drenching the very air around us with with viral potential. All you have to do is slip on the stairs, throw up on the subway, or throw down in the club and you’re more than probably going to be greeted with those two cascading syllables, the first drawn out, the second shriller, a staccato denouement to what’s become the de facto battle cry of our time—“WORLDSTAR.” What now? Are you more likely to punch that busdriver, or less? Is it worth it? Do you have a choice? The eyes of the world surround you, enter your body. You’ve become a gladiator for an emperor you can’t see. You’re meat, now—WorldStar is the world’s most democratic buffet, allowing you the choice to be either patron or meal. Either way, in the kitchen a friendly man with a wide grin and an impressive chain is counting his stacks.
When Lee O’Denat, bka Q, started WorldStarHipHop in 2005, he had no idea that he would be further contributing to the democratization of surveillance culture. He was just another internet-addled entrepreneur trying to make a website. Like so many before him, he realized that people like violence, nudity, and watching people engage in otherwise antisocial and lewd behavior. So, he catered WorldStar to fulfill those very compulsions, and it worked like gangbusters. Today, WorldStarHipHop is an empire, a self-sustaining behemoth that runs off of the folly of others, aired out for the world to see. Unlike YouTube, Worldstar’s become a brand unto itself, capitalizing on its own notoriety with series like “KO of the Week.” Q, argue some, is a monster, a guy who profits off of fuck-ups acting out in public and making our world tangibly worse in the process. Q, meanwhile, might contend that he’s just showing parts of society that exist—if society is fucked, is that his fault? No, and arguing otherwise is naive and reductive at best, and a dangerous perpetuation of the idea of the “nanny state” at worst.
Where Foucault warned us against a reality in which the authorities might be monitoring us at any given moment, WorldStar has created the opposite effect—we are all agents of surveillance culture, and suddenly, we’ve stopped worrying about the consequences of our actions, and instead consider their potential virality. If Q is holding up a mirror to society and showing us a bunch of people beating the shit out of each other on a Ferris Wheel or whatever, it’s not out of an urge to shame us, merely to point out that everybody’s been this fucked forever, and the fact that we’re still fascinated by people acting boorishly says way more about our world than the boorish behavior itself. Q—in person equal parts Steve Jobs, Sigmund Freud, Howard Stern, and Larry Flynt—was kind enough to stop by the VICE offices to chat with us, and despite running on two hours of sleep, offered a remarkably cogent and coherent defense of his site, which if you ask him, just might be the future of all media.
Noisey: You have kids, right?
Q from WorldStar: Yeah.
How old are they?
Kids are 14, seven, and four.
Does the 14-year-old watch WorldStar?
He loves WorldStar. He represents WorldStar. Wears the hoodie, the shirts, and he talks about it. Kids in his school love WorldStar. He also likes Grand Theft Auto. I love that game. We play together. Sometime we go online together. He’ll drive and I just go around robbing banks. He’s the getaway driver. We have fun.