On February 12, Quadeer “MC Spice” Shakur, the Minister of Information for the Zulu Nation, sent an open letter to Lee “Q” O’Denat, the founder and CEO of the video streaming website Worldstarhiphop.com, contending that the content on WSHH does not accurately reflect the true principles of Hip-Hop culture.
Now Hip-Hop pioneer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Grandmaster Melle Mel of the legendary rap group Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five has teamed with the Zulu Nation to pressure Worldstar to remove all references of “Hip-Hop” from their site.
Melle Mel and Shakur spoke with AllHipHop.com about the Zulu Nation’s ongoing petition and boycott of WorldStar and other items they view are misrepresenting the foundation that the culture of Hip-Hop was built upon.
“I think Worldstarhiphop has given young people a platform to exhibit horrible behavior toward other young people and toward the community at large, and they promote it like that has something to do with Hip-Hop,” says Melle Mel.
“They know for a fact just using the word ‘Hip-Hop’ is going to garnish some attention,” says the Zulu Nation’s Shakur. “They know exactly what they’re doing.”
The Universal Zulu Nation began in New York City in 1973 as a way to counteract the gang culture that had infested urban neighborhoods. Founded by Hip-Hop icon DJ Afrika Bambaataa, the Zulu Nation is now an international organization with branches in countries like France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and others.
Hip-Hop as a culture was created by artists like Bambaataa, The Furious Five, Coke La Rock, and DJ Kool Herc to stop inner-city gang violence amongst Black and Latino youth. The culture is transmited around the world by the four basic elements of DJing, emceeing, graffiti art, and break dancing, and the fifth element of knowledge.
“Hip-Hop came out of gang culture into the culture of music,” says Melle Mel. “That’s the greatest thing that Hip-Hop brought to the black community. It brought us out of an oppressive situation.”
“People do know the difference between Hip-Hop culture and the word ‘Hip-Hop’ that has been loosely used,” says Shakur. “The only people who don’t know the difference unfortunately is the impressionable youth.”
Both Melle Mel and Shakur mentioned a recent video that was uploaded to WSHH as an example of the improper acts being exhibited by young people in the name of “Hip-Hop” that they feel are being promoted by WorldStar.
In the particular video, a teenager is forced to strip naked as another individual beats him with a belt. Other people in the background can be heard laughing and seen tossing water on the victim. Three people have since been arrested by Newark, New Jersey police officers and charged with aggravated assault and robbery.
Melle Mel believes that WorldStar should also take responsibility for perpetuating violence like the one displayed in the video of the young man being whipped by a belt.
In many of the videos posted to WSHH the individual filming can be heard yelling “Worldstar” as they videotape various violent attacks including staged bouts between teenagers.
“Worldstarhiphop is literally breaking the law on a daily basis when they’re showing assaults, and that could have been considered child pornography,” says Mel. “They’re just throwing it up there like it’s something funny. They are going to be held responsible as far as the law is concerned.”
Beyond arguing that WorldStar is contributing to illegal acts being committed by young people, Shakur also takes offense to the idea that the website in any way represents true Hip-Hop culture.
“WorldstarHipHop has no respect, as far as I’m concerned, for our people and our music,” says Shakur. “If it was in fact just a site for what we call ‘entertainment’ then let it be known at the bottom of your page. Put some kind of disclaimer that you are not in fact involved in or a part of real Hip-Hop culture.”
As a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, Shakur promotes the four spiritual principles of Hip-Hop culture – peace, unity, love, and having fun.
“Go to [Worldstarhiphop] and tell me if you can find any four of those at once,” urges Shakur. “If you are not abiding by the four spiritual principles, those are the core values of Hip-Hop culture, then you’re not a Hip-Hopper.”
“WorldStarHipHop has no more to do with Hip-Hop then FedEx has to do with the Federal Government,” adds Melle Mel.
WorldStarHipHop.com was started in 2005 by Queens native O’Denat, and has become one the most viewed video blog sites on the internet averaging between 1-2 million unique viewers every day. In March of 2012 it was ranked as the 269th most visited site in the United States, and reportedly earns over $2.5 million a year.
The website presents user submitted videos that include footage of fights, pranks, and comedy sketches as well as promotional videos from music labels and news clips from around the world. Music videos submitted by both established artists and independent artists are shown as well.
Grandmaster Melle Mel points out that the procedure for a user to submit music videos to WorldStar is different from the procedure to submit amateur videos of violent acts.
“If you call them and talk to them about a Hip-Hop video they’ll charge you to put that video up, but if you send them a video of you kicking someone’s ass or the booty videos, they’re throwing them up for free,” says Melle Mel.
“They are calling themselves Hip-Hop, and they’re not doing nothing for the culture except raping the culture in order to make money,” adds Shakur.
According to reports, a non-established artist has to pay $500 to submit a music video, $1,250 for mixtape/DVD trailers, and $2,500 a day for their video to be placed in the featured space at the top of the site.
While label-backed artists do not have to pay for their content to appear on Worldstar, the site does make a significant profit from corporate sponsored advertisements.
“[Corporations] understand that the culture can get a whole group of people to move,” says Shakur. “So our people are moved to shoot, kill, rob, and rape. Their people are moved to excel, excel, and excel all based on the premise of real Hip-Hop culture.”
A “video agreement” posted on WSHH states that once a user has submitted a video WorldStar has the right to use that video in form and to license it out to other parties:
By submitting the video, you hereby grant Worldstar Hip Hop and its parent company, Worldstar LLC,("Worldstar")theirrevocable right and license to duplicate, broadcast, exhibit, transmit and exploit the video, or to allow Worldstart to grant sublicenses to third parties to duplicate, broadcast, exhibit, transmit and exploit the video, on theinternet, television, mobile platforms or other media throughout the world.You agree that Worldstar shall not berequired to make any payment to you or anyone else in exercise of the rights granted in this Agreement, and acknowledge that you shall receive valuable consideration in the form of placement of and promotion of the video.
Worldstar has faced legal issues concerning copyright infringement in the past. A March 2011 Vibe magazine exposé revealed that the site was temporarily shut down in January of that year after a user filed a copyright complaint because WSHH did not credit him as the video’s creator. Worldstarhiphop.com was then subsequently shut down by the site’s server for a time.
So far no one from WorldStar has responded to the Zulu Nation’s request to remove the word “Hip-Hop” from its name and its site, but the Zulu Nation plans to take further action if WSHH representatives do not respond to Shakur’s letter within 30 days, including reaching out to political leaders.
Shakur also says that O’Denat or anyone from WorldStar is welcome to attend the Zulu Nation’s upcoming 40th anniversary events to discuss what Hip-Hop culture is and what it isn’t. But until then Melle Mel and the Zulu Nation will continue its effort to recapture the term “Hip-Hop” from those using it to represent music, media, or actions that are going against the culture’s core principles.
“We are not going to let it go,” says Melle Mel.
“If it’s ours, let what’s ours be ours. And you just take yours and just do whatever you want to do with yours,” says Shakur. “Do it with yours, but don’t do it with ours.”
AllHipHop.com attempted to reach out to Lee “Q” O’Denat for a comment for this story. As of the time this article was published, he could not be located.
Watch a video of Quadeer Shakur addressing Worldstarhiphop.com below.