Shaquille O’Neal’s Music Career Was Not a Failure By Any Stretch

When Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career is brought up, it is often met with mockery and implications that he somehow failed. However, if you look at O’Neal’s resume when it comes to music, he had about as good a career as one could ask for from a 7’2″ NBA player. O’Neal sold records, featured with some legendary performers, and sprung a career that still lasts to this day. 

Shaq the Multi-Hyphenate Superstar

Shaquille O'Neal smiling, looking away from the camera
Shaquille O’Neal | Nick Agro/E! Entertainment/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

When O’Neal entered the NBA, he did so about as loudly as one could expect from a man of his stature and demeanor. He didn’t just want to be an NBA player, he wanted to be an entertainer. Movies, video games, candy bars, comics, and toys were only a few of the ways that O’Neal branched out past the paint of the hardwood. His most successful secondary venture, however, may have been his rap career. 

Nobody is ever going to say that O’Neal was one of the best rappers to ever do it. However, those who say that his music was unlistenable may not have heard the quintessential early-nineties vibes that he was putting out. O’Neal’s music didn’t sound like a basketball player trying to rap. They seemed just in line with several hits that were playing over the radio. 

Shaq Diesel and the birth or a rapper

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O’Neal’s debut album, Shaq Diesel, featured an early-nineties east coast sound with old school production and several memorable songs, according to Rolling Stone. From Phife Dawg to Erick Sermon, O’Neal’s debut album featured artists from across the gamut. He had braggadocious hits like “(I Know I Got) Skillz” and “I’m Outstanding” to go alongside party anthems like “Boom.” O’Neal’s collaboration with FU Schnickens, What’s Up Doc, was the type of posse cut that people loved in the 1990s.

Shaq Diesel went platinum, but O’Neal was just getting started on the microphone. Parlaying his fame into more prominent features, O’Neal got several members of the hip hop collective Wu-Tang Clan to appear on the lead-off track. From there, Sermon returned to the microphone, and Method Man made a surprise appearance near the end of it. That album sold a half-million copies, certifying it as a gold release. 

For the titular track on You Can’t Stop the ReignO’Neal got the late Notorious BIG to spit a verse with the NBA’s most popular Big Man. At the same time, his fourth album, Respect, effectively put an end to his album-making career. However, O’Neal’s resume goes above and beyond his own records. The center appeared on several other artists’ albums, including Michael Jackson’s “2 Bad.” 

O’Neal was never in it to rap full-time, but the fact that a person who was rapping as a side job made it onto the charts and went platinum is no small task. Several other NBA players have tried to do what O’Neal did and failed. For that, he should be commended. 

Setting a precedent

The early 1990s were all about hip hop. When people were still buying albums at record rates, people had no problem spending that money on an Orlando Magic big man’s record. No other NBA players have had the chart success that O’Neal had, according to Complex, because no other players who did so had O’Neal’s ability to market himself to a broader base of fans.

O’Neal still picks up a microphone from time to time and features with artists old and young. He is also known to spin some records at a DJ booth and make music a different way. 27 years removed from his debut album. However, O’Neal should be praised for doing what few others could even dream of doing, That, in and of itself, is outstanding.