Why Shaq Is the Greatest Rapper Ever to Enter the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Later this week, Shaquille O’Neal will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, a venue which holds tributes to not only players, but also coaches, teams, and others who have made “significant contributions to the game of basketball.” O’Neal will join celebrated players such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Dennis Rodman, Lisa Leslie, and over 100 others whose marks on the sport are indelible. His induction comes five years after he announced his retirement from the NBA, and it’s not just an achievement for Shaq, the athlete. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on his achievements as Shaq, the MC.
20 years ago, The Best of Shaquille O’Neal dropped. A compilation that includes songs like “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock?),” featuring Fu-Schnickens; “No Hook,” featuring RZA & Method Man; “Where Ya At?,” featuring Phife Dawg; and “My Style, My Stelo,” featuring Erick Sermon & Redman, it’s a compilation that arrived in the middle of a four-album discography launched by 1993’s platinum-selling Shaq Diesel. And, while O’Neals formidable skills as one of the best centers are impossible to gloss over, his achievements as a rapper often go unmentioned in conversations about his legacy. However, a recent reflection on his prodigious Hip-Hop career put together by Rolling Stone‘s Jake Lustick provides Heads with a great play-by-play and highlight reel.
As Lustick points out, O’Neal was by far the only NBA star to take a stab at a Rap career, but he is by far the most successful. “You might be rolling your eyes right now, thinking that Shaq’s success was just a novelty, his commercial prosperity the result of his worldwide fame,” he writes. “Tell that to the laundry list of other pro ballers who dipped their toe into the Hip-Hop pool,” which includes Chris Webber (see his Kurupt-assisted “Gangsta, Gangsta”), Allen Iverson (remember “40 Bars”?), Kobe Bryant (who once released a collab with Brian McKnight called “Hold Me”), and Tony Parker (whose song “Balance Toi” is French for “balance yourself”). One need not look further than Shaq’s list of collaborators to see that he was able to pull his own weight; in addition to those already mentioned, he also recorded tracks with Rakim, Mobb Deep, DJ Quik, Keith Murray, and Jay Z and the Notorious B.I.G. On the same album.
Nearly 20 years ago, in November of 1996, O’Neal dropped the album that would house that historic collaboration. As such, Lustick describes You Can’t Stop the Reign as “one of the only albums in history to feature two of the legit contenders for G.O.A.T.” and acknowledges that, even though “Biggie and Jigga appear on separate tracks,” “the fact that they’d lend their respective genius to what could have been considered a gimmick Rap career proves that it was anything but.” However, Lustick argues, it isn’t just the big-guns collaborators that carried Shaq’s career in music. He held his own as a lyricist, too, he argues. “The big man rose to the challenge, avoiding the corny pitfalls many other non-rappers succumb to when trying their hand at Hip-Hop,” he writes before quoting “Forget Tony Danza, I’m the boss/When it comes to money, I’m like Dick DeVos/Now who’s the first pick? Me. Word is bond/I’m not a Christian Laettner, not Alonzo Mourning” from Shaq’s verse on “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock?).”
As recently as 2010, Shaq made waves in music, as Lustick references by mentioning a freestyle in which he dissed Kobe. Also notable moments in his career include his being invited to appear on Michael Jackson’s 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, for which Shaq provided a verse on “2 Bad.” Also worth mentioning is his 2001 LP, the fittingly titled Shaquille O’Neal Presents His Superfriends, Vol. 1. With Dr. Dre, Nate Dogg, WC, Trina, Twista, Snoop Dogg, Black Thought, Common, Black Star, Angie Stone, Peter Gunz, 112, and George Clinton all appearing on the album, it represents a frustrating reality: it’s never actually been formally released. It was reportedly due to arrive on the same day as Jay Z’s The Blueprint (September 11, 2001), but was delayed and eventually shelved, leaving quite literally a goldmine of extremely rare Hip-Hop yet to be fully unearthed.
Other inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 inductees includes ABA superstar Zelmo Beaty; 27-year NBA referee Darell Garretson; 11-time NBA All-Star Allen Iverson; two-time NABC Coach of the Year Tom Izzo;the first African-American coach in a professional league, John McLendon; Early African-American Pioneer Cumberland Posey; iconic Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf; four-time WNBA Champion Sheryl Swoopes; and global ambassador of the game, Yao Ming. For more information on the Enshrinement Ceremony, which runs from September 8 through September 10, Heads can check out the “Hoop Hall”‘s official website.