Founder of WorldStarHipHop died of natural causes in San Diego massage parlor, coroner says

WorldStarHipHop CEO Lee O'Denat in 2014. O'Denat died January in San Diego.
(Daniel Zuchnik / WireImage)

The founder of the popular and controversial website, Lee O’Denat, died of natural causes as a result of severe buildup of plaque near his heart and obesity, according to a full autopsy report.

O’Denat, who was known as Q, died suddenly in January at a massage parlor in San Diego.

The unexpected death of the 43-year-old prompted an investigation by the coroner’s office. The San Diego County medical examiner’s office completed the investigative report this week and released it to The Times under a public records request.


The findings support the coroner’s initial opinion that the website mogul died of natural causes, but the report revealed new details about the circumstances.

According to the report, O’Denat was a walk-in customer on Jan. 23 at VIP Spa in the 400 block of Clairmont Mesa Boulevard.

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

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, according to the report.

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.

A native of Queens, O’Denat founded WorldStar in 2005. He transformed it into a more curated form of YouTube, with music, police videos, and clips of violent fights and sex in public locations.

Yelling “WorldStar” at a public fight or dispute became increasingly common, showing the dominance of O’Denat’s site among online media.

Some criticized the site for casting a negative spotlight on black and urban communities, but O’Denat defended the site’s aggregation of spectacles.

“Hip-hop is for the sex, the drugs, the violence, the beefs, the culture,” he told the New York Times in 2015. “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.”

After O’Denat’s death, WorldStar issued a statement saying that the website would continue.

“Q was a brilliant businessman who championed urban culture, ultimately creating the largest hip-hop website in the world,” the statement said. “But more than that, he was a devoted father and one of the nicest, most generous persons to ever grace this planet.”

Twitter: @MattHjourno



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