Artist: Shaquille O’Neal
Album: Shaq Diesel
You’ve got to hand it to Shaq. Who else but Shaq could drop a hip-hop album that includes a song titled “Shoot Pass Slam?” Who else could mime L.A. gangsta rap and sample Public Enemy in a matter of tracks? Who else could drop an album about being the greatest when his first and, at the time, only season in the NBA concluded with a 41-41 record that resulted in missing the playoffs? And who else could make such an album reach platinum status?
Shaq. That’s who. Shaq’s always been an interesting individual in pop culture. He’s not afraid to, say, produce several rap albums or star in his own (awful) reality series. And yet, it’s not like he ever needed to do any of those things: His skills on the court clearly speak for themselves, and all these years later he’s still at it.
Which makes the whole idea of Shaq Diesel so intriguing. Namely, why does it even exist? Shaq joined the NBA at a high point for the league in the early ’90s. With all that competition, what drove him to make a rap album? And one that mainly just focused on his on-court antics.
Needless to say, I snapped this CD immediately. And I listened and listened for days, all with a fair bit of confusion. At a time when hip-hop and basketball were such cultural forces, why did a combo product of that era sound so… well, forced? So gimmicky? So… strange?
Which isn’t to say it’s unlistenable. The beats on Shaq Diesel are sick. The lyrics are… well, something else. It’s an interesting combination to say the least. Hearing Shaq rap “not by the hairs of my chiny chin chin” over a thick breakbeat is something I could have only dreamed up.
Then again, clearly this isn’t a dream. Which, for what it’s worth, isn’t a bad thing. To his credit, Shaq went through and put out his idealistic artistic creation. Be it good or bad, you’ve got to admire the kind of gumption that it took to make an album like Shaq Diesel.