Before he was a part of TNT ‘s NBA commentary team, along side Ernie Johnson, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Charles “Turrible” Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal was a pretty damn good basketball player, and arguably the most dominant paint player in NBA history. He was a 4 time NBA Champion, 15 time NBA All-Star, 3 time NBA Finals MVP, the 2000 NBA MVP, voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, and in 2016 he was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Oh yeah, and at one point he was a rapper too.
In 1993 Shaquille O’Neal was on top of the world. A year prior he was selected out of LSU by the Orlando Magic as the NBA’s overall number one draft pick and would go on to win the NBA Rookie of The Year Award. In ’93 he would return for his second season, but he would also start his rap career, signing a deal with Jive where he would release his first solo effort, Shaq Diesel.
Shaq would call on some respected hip-hip producers to help shape the soundscape for Shaq Diesel and he would invite a few guests to add some rhymes (and write his) to some of the songs. Shaq Diesel would go on to sell over a million copies, making Shaq the first and the only human to have both a NBA title and a RIAA platinum plaque.
But the real question is was Shaq Diesel any good?
Intro – The album opens with a clip of former NBA commissioner David Stern announcing Shaquille O’Neal as the NBA’s 1992 number one draft pick by the Orlando Magic. Then a hard drum beat drops in with vocal snippets from some well-respected rappers (i.e. Grand Puba and CL Smooth) scratched in by Def Jef.
(I Know I Got) Skillz – Speaking of Def Jef, he drops a verse and gets credit for this instrumental, which also happened to be the first single from Shaq Diesel. Jef’s backdrop is decent, as Shaq displays his average, and sometimes corny (see “I get dirty after dark, I’ll treat you like Spielberg, you’ll get your ass kick (Jurassic) in the park”), rhyming over it.
I’m Outstanding – This was the second single released from Shaq Diesel. Over a surprisingly solid Erick Sermon instrumental (but can you really go wrong when you sample The Gap Band’s classic “Outstanding” record?) Shaq recalls his humble beginnings and the hard work it took to get him to the NBA and become outstanding. This was pretty dope and still sounds good today.
Where Ya At? – Our host invites Phife Dawg (from ATCQ) to this session, as the two tag team the mic over a slick Ali Shaheed Muhammad produced backdrop. Shaq sounds decent on this one, but by ’93, Phife was in a zone, and raps circles around his counterpart (and I have a sneaking suspension Phife penned Shaq’s lines as well). But the true champion of this song is Shaheed’s buttery horn loop and the stabbing piano keys. By far this is the strongest song on Shaq Diesel.
I Hate 2 Brag – Def Jef gets his third production credit of the evening, building a solid instrumental around a sample of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”. Shaq sounds okay on it, but he doesn’t give us anything worth quoting.
Let Me In, Let Me In – Erick Sermon gets his second production credit of the evening, as Shaq uses it to address all the gold diggin’ women out there. If I were a betting man I’d bet a dollar that E-Double wrote Shaq’s rhymes. Our host’s flow, which was passable on the previous songs, completely falls apart on this one (he lazily makes his second reference of the evening to Michael Jackson’s signature “hee-hee” adlib). But worst than Shaq’s performance is E-Double’s muddling funk junk production that I’ve expressed several times how much I’m a fan of.
Shoot Pass Slam – E-Double’s instrumental isn’t as garbage as the previous song (the only saving grace is the sick break brought in during the hook), but it’s still not great. Nor are Shaq’s Erick Sermon written rhymes.
Boom! – Shaq invites his buddies the Fu-Schnickens to join him on the mic, with Erick Sermon pulling double duties as the producer and he drops a verse. No one says anything worth quoting, and E-Double’s instrumental sounds almost identical to his work on “Shoot Pass Slam”, less the sick sample on the hook. This was terrible.
Are You A Roughneck – This was trash, plus the title’s not punctuated correctly.
Giggin’ On Em – This song will always bring me back to my sophomore year in high school when our boy’s basketball team won the 1994 AA State Championship (Go Millers!). This song was on the team’s warm-up playlist, but I digress. Shaq spits decent rhymes, that I’m positive were written by Phife (who also plays Shaq’s hypeman on the hook), over a decent Dr. “?” instrumental. I still chuckle at the end of the song when Shaq runs down a list of all the people he’s “gigged” on.
What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock) – I don’t know why I thought this was on the Space Jam Soundtrack…maybe because the title references Bugs Bunny’s famous tag line? Anyhoo… Shaq invites his Fu-Schnicken brethren back for the final song on Shaq Diesel , as they each spit a verse, bringing a cartoonish feel to the song. K-Cut (one-third of Main Source) gets the credit for the instrumental, and while it’s not terrible, Shaq and company’s rhymes give it super corny feel.
Game Over – Short outro that sounds like a bunch of dudes finishing up a game of b-ball.
Shaquille O’Neal will go down in history as one of the greatest and most dominant NBA players of all-time, rightfully so, but he should NEVER be called a great rapper. Shaq Diesel finds the Hall of Fame center experimenting with wordplay instead of playing with balls (pause); and while he doesn’t sound as bad as some of his peers who would also experiment with the mic later on (i.e. Kobe, AI, Cedric Ceballos), he’s not that good, either…plus, it’s pretty apparent that he had help writing his rhymes. By the way, shoutout to Damian Lillard, the greatest ballplayer to ever rock the mic.
There are a couple of dope songs on Shaq Diesel , but the majority of it ranges from barely decent to garbage. On the bright side, Shaq rapped better than he shot free throws.