Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal is a man who goes by many names. The Big Aristotle. The Big Diesel. Shaq Diesel. Shaq Fu. These last two nicknames are more than just playful monikers. They are the titles of Shaq’s first two rap albums.
Sure, The Big Man became famous as an Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat basketball player. (Consider those teams Shaq’s first two records.) Shaq also played professional basketball with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics. (Consider those teams Shaq’s later records.)
The former NBA Finals MVP has played alongside Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. He’s a basketball Hall of Famer at every level, from college to the NBA to international play. This two-time gold medalist, four-time NBA champion, 14-time All-NBA and two-time scoring champ had a game as big as his body. But he had an even bigger mouth.
As we’ve all learned from years of watching Shaq on TNT, The Big Diesel is pretty hilarious. When Shaq’s legacy was still growing in the early ’90s, he put his gift of gab to use. The biggest man on the court became the biggest man in the studio.
Unsurprisingly, Shaq’s discography features some big hits.
Shaq’s Rap Career
Before Shaq was in the studio with E.J., Kenny and Chuck, he was in a different studio.
It’s the summer of 1993. Recent NBA Rookie of the Year and Orlando Magic superstar Shaquille O’Neal seeks to expand his already all-encompassing presence. A longtime fan of hip-hop, O’Neal considers himself something of an artist.
Through his agent Leonard Armato, Shaq is hooked up with Jive Records via Jeff Sledge and CEO Barry Weiss. A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad meets Shaq in a studio and decides Shaq is legit. From there, the pieces fell into place. When everything had settled, they had produced the best-selling hip-hop album by a professional athlete of all time.
Shaq’s first album, “Shaq Diesel,” was released late in 1996. Tracks featured hip-hop greats like Erick Sermon, K-Cut and Meech Wells. Shaq never set out to make an album on his own. From its inception, Shaq saw the record as an opportunity to rap alongside his favorite hip-hop artists, not be the star of the show. His plan worked. Shaq’s guest appearance-heavy debut album sold over 1,000,000 copies, achieving platinum status.
The record was more than just a smash-and-grab compilation of All-Stars. Shaq’s single, “I’m Outstanding,” told the story of his difficult childhood, paying homage to his mother. He released a similar track, “Biological Father Didn’t Bother,” on his second album.
“Shaq Fu: The Return” (alternatively, “Shaq Fu: Da Return”) was a fairly successful sophomore album, selling half a million copies to reach gold. Shaq’s following two album sales combined wouldn’t touch “Shaq Fu,” but that didn’t stop him from trying.
Shaq was a better rapper than he was a free-throw shooter. Yes, he’s a bit gimmicky, but you wouldn’t guess that the guy from “Inside the NBA” could talk that fast. Before we get into Shaq’s best rap singles, let’s explore some of his honorable mentions.
Shaq is a giant multi-hyphenate. NBA champion, slow-talking broadcaster, fast-talking rapper and fairly entertaining entertainer. Shaq’s acted in several films, most famously “Kazaam” (not to be confused with Sinbad’s apparently non-existent, Mandela-effected “Shazaam!”) and pre-Nolan DCEU Film (a superhero movie before it was cool), “Steel.”
“Men of Steel,” featuring Ice Cube, B Real and KRS One, cracked the Billboard Top 100 in 1997. The feature film didn’t fare well, mostly because Shaq is unbelievable as anyone other than Shaq.
No hip-hop career is complete without a few servings of beef. Just look at how huge Shaq is — you know he ain’t vegan.
The above diss track is the second in a series of 2019 tracks aimed at Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. Off the court, Dame goes by Dame Dolla. Many fans consider Dame Dolla to be the best NBA player-turned-rapper, but Shaq isn’t one of them. After some back-and-forth freestyles, Shaq said the Dame beef was all in good fun. That’s more than he can say about his beef with LaVar Ball.
Yikes! Shaq’s brisket with the Big Baller Brand founder is as petty as it is delicious. Both beef tracks are from the last five years, so it’s safe to say Shaq’s still got it.
Now, without further ado, the top five Shaq Rap songs of all time, plucked from his platinum and gold records.
Shaq’s Top 5 Rap Songs
5. No Hook
Album: “Shaq Fu: The Return”
Featuring: Rakeem “The RZA”, Method Man
Any song featuring members of the Wu-Tang Clan is bound to get a mention, even if it has no hook.
4. (I Know I Got) Skillz
Album: “Shaq Diesel”
Featuring: Def Jef
I love watching Shaq dance.
3. What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)
Album: “Shaq Diesel”
Featuring Roderick “Chip Fu” Roachford, Joe “Moc Fu” Jones and Lennox “Poc Fu” Maturine, “What’s Up Doc?” sounds and feels so much like a rip-off of “Can I Kick It?” that I’m surprised Q-Tip didn’t have a verse. In fact, Q-Tip was the only member of A Tribe Called Quest who turned down a “Shaq Diesel” appearance.
2. Where Ya At?
Album: “Shaq Diesel”
Featuring: Phife Dawg
Speaking of ATCQ, Phife Dawg the Five-Footer (RIP) totally validates this track from “Shaq Diesel.” Perhaps you’ve noticed a trend. All of Shaq’s best songs feature other legendary rappers. That observation brings us to our No. 1 Shaquille O’Neal rap song of all time.
1. You Can’t Stop the Reign
Album: “You Can’t Stop The Reign”
Featuring: The Notorious B.I.G.
It’s hard to believe that a rapper from Louisiana who became famous in Florida and Los Angeles got New York rapper Biggie Smalls to rap on a track over West Coast Tupac Shakur. I mean, this is one of the best NBA players of all time and the greatest rapper of all time in one track. Then again, most things about Shaq are hard to believe. That’s part of why we love him.
Epilogue: The Unreleased Records
Shaq’s reign over the rap game finally stopped in the late ’90s, around the time he started to win championships with Kobe and the Lakers. Shaq was busy with basketball, movies and television, so perhaps rapping fell by the wayside. He’s released a remix or two since his last studio album from 1996, “Respect.” But people are more interested in what Shaq hasn’t released.
Internet lore foretells of a secret Shaq album featuring Dr. Dre, Common, Ludacris and Blackstar. It’s called “Shaquille O’Neal Presents His Superfriends, Vol. 1,” and incomplete versions of the album are available on Youtube (like the one linked above). But such samples are more of a tease than a taste.
“Atomic Dog,” featuring Snoop Dogg and George Clinton, sounds like a banger to me, and I want to hear the original version. Shaq says he may release more music soon. One can only hope that whatever he releases, it’s more like “Shaq Diesel” and less like “Kazaam.”