Q has polished off a plate of chicken tenders when Kat calls from prison. They exchange pleasantries. “Four months without dick?” says Q. “Your pussy is gonna be like your ass. Gotta make sure your first dude isn’t a dirtbag—he’s gonna love you.”
Conversations like this one unwind World Star’s DNA. Strip clubs, jailed groupies and raunchiness are part of its makeup. A common complaint from critics is that the site presents a negative image of Black people. In response, Q dusts off the familiar trope that WSHH is the “CNN of the ghetto.” “We’re just the messenger,” he says. “Maybe that will help Blacks or minorities say, ‘Wow, I don’t want to be on World Star, I don’t want to be on blast.’”
But World Star’s content isn’t all that is in question. Skeptics have accused Q of juicing viewership numbers. On a weekday afternoon, the count for Torch’s track “Bang Yo City” went from an astronomical 6,706,079 to 6,709,233—an increase of over 3,000—in approximately two minutes. On YouTube, one critic demonstrates how holding down the “refresh” button generates mega-views. Q denies this accusation. “We don’t have time to sit there and hit Control-R all day,” Q says. He admits to the controversial practice of counting visits to the homepage as “views” for the main video feature, even though it may not have been played. “It’s like watching a video on MTV Jams,” he says. “You don’t know if 2 million people or 10 million people are watching.”
World Star’s viewership may be subject for debate, but their revenue is real. According to the site’s rate card, they charge $500 to post a video, $1,250 for mixtape/DVD trailers and $5,000 for X-rated clips. Putting content in the featured top box costs $2,500 a day, while there is no charge for videos from established artists. Q says that Cîroc vodka paid several hundred thousand dollars for a comprehensive yearlong campaign. Money rolls in through Paypal, corporate checks and knots of duffel-bag cash (one of Q’s associates even alluded to a system where money was picked up at the front desk of hotels). Now, in hopes of growing into an empire, World Star has expanded into management and bookings, and inked a deal with Ed Hardy to introduce a World Star clothing line.
In fact, Q rarely misses an opportunity to squeeze a buck from his brand and beyond. One girl begged him to take down a clip in which she stripped naked while rapping along to Nicki Minaj’s verse from “Monster.” Like many humiliating moments inspired by alcohol and caught on camera, the clip ended up on WorldStarHipHop.com. She was desperate to get the footage off the Web, so she contacted Q and tearfully begged him to remove the clip. “She had been disowned, kicked out of her house,” Q remembers, sounding sympathetic. Eventually he relented and took down the video, but only after she coughed up $500. “She had to pay up!” he cackles, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.
Because of his shrewd, if crude, practices, Q enjoys the luxuriant lifestyle of the rap star he once hoped to become. He stays at The Ritz Carlton, pops bottles of Patrón and makes it rain at strip clubs. When visiting New York, Los Angeles or Miami, he travels with security—a necessary expense. “I’m an important figure in the world with this Web site,” Q says, reveling in his position at the hot center of hip-hop gore. “But it just takes one person to say, ‘I hate that fucking site,’ and punch me in my eye.” V