Nathan S. 's avatar

In Defense of Shaq, the Greatest NBA Player-Rapper of All-Time

Posted by Nathan S. on 10/22/13 | Filed under Opinion, Sports, In Defense

About a week ago the almighty Shaq dropped a "Karate Chop (Freestyle)" that earned almost universal derision from the interwebs. "Can you fucking believe it?" I asked Lucas. "No one wants to give Shaq his due as the greatest NBA player-rapper of all-time."

But while I expected Lucas to agree, instead he spent the next hour calling me a Shaq stan and making "Kazaam" jokes. Fueled by the haters, I vowed to write a defense of Shaq's rap skills, but then, you know, things happen. Ass shots get posted on Instagram, I get distracted by drinking, and before you know it, a week has gone by and that "vow" had turned into yet another article idea lost to the void.

But then, out of nowhere, RefinedHype Nation loyalist @tdotraza  hit me with this:

If that's not a sign from the interwebs gods, I don't know what is. It looks like this article was just meant to be. Let's do this thing.

First and foremost, because I know you forgot, let's take a moment to review Mr. O'Neal's resume. Signed to both Jive and Interscope, in the '90s Shaq put out four studio albums, two complilation albums and two soundtrack albums (yes, one to the dreaded "Kazaam"). That major label output alone blows any of his other baller-rapper peers out of the water, but he also managed to move decent numbers. His debut "Shaq Deisel", went platinum, featured production from Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Erick Sermon (yeah, suck on that rap nerds) and included legit hit "What's Up Doc" alongside his favorite rap crew, the Fu-Schnickens.

Listen, no one's saying he was going mic-to-mic with Big Daddy Kane, but that's some perfectly respectable early '90s style rap skills from the Shaqster. And he wasn't just playing the background role, "Shaq Deisel" also includes some deeply personal material like the storytelling "Biological Didn't Bother". While every baller rapped about rap or riches (hey Kobe, how's that Tyra Banks feature working for you?), Shaq was one of the few, if not the only, to do more heartfelt material.

And just like, you know, an actual rapper, his album material is what he should be truly judged on, the man's also proven time and time again that he can freestyle. And I don't mean "freestyle" in the "guy rapping off his iPhone" sense of the word we know now, I mean throwing out Alonzo Mourning disses on the Dream Team bus. But there's still one Shaq freestyle moment that will clearly rises above the rest.

Name another NBA player, ever, with the cojones to grab a mic in the middle of a club like that, let alone thoroughly rock a crowd and destroy Kobe in the process? And I don't just mean the now classic "tell me how my ass taste", I mean he's dropping lines about Kobe snitching on him.

Despite Lucas' jokes I'm not a Shaq stan; although, full disclosure, when I was in second grade I did belong to the official Shaq Fan Club. I completely recognize that without his NBA stardom he most likely would have never made it as a rapper. But I think he's also being unfairly painted with the broad brush of atrocity some of his other NBA rapper peers have laid down. Vanilla Ice was so terrible for hip-hop that for years every white rapper was written off as a joke, even if they could actually rap. The collective terrible rapping of terrible NBA rappers has been so terrible that every NBA rapper is still automatically written off as being terrible, even if they're actually pretty good. And Shaq? Shaq is actually pretty good at rapping. "Actually pretty good" isn't a huge compliment, but it's accurate, and it's far more praise than he unjustly seems to get from anyone else.

Now, if we're really going to dig in and start ranking every NBA-rapper, we'd have to create a complicated formula that weighed both their accomplishments on the court and on the mic; isn't more impressive that someone when someone who's an All-Star raps than someone who was in the D-League? Believe me, one day I'll create that absurdly complicated formula and attempt to figure out exactly where Allen Iverson and Ron Artest should be ranked respectively. But in the case of Shaq, he's so clearly, overwhelmingly the best, there's really no need to do that her. Shaq's got the catalog, he's got the longevity, he's got the sales, he's got the punchlines, his flow's decent, he can freestyle. Really, what more could you possibly ask for?

So while you might listen to "Karate Chop" and hear a disgrace, I hear the undisputed Greatest NBA Player-Rapper of All-Time, and it's not even particularly close.

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