The Best of Shaq

This week there is no joy in Mudville. Winter and spring have ended, stemming the influx of tourists and supermarket checkout celebrities. The sweltering season has begun, bringing with it tropical storms and hurricanes and, when it isn't raining, feverishly hot weather. Worst of all, the Miami Heat did not make it to the NBA finals. There will be no championship parties at Privé hosted by Dwyane Wade; there will be no parades along Biscayne Boulevard led by Shaquille O'Neal.

What is a Miami Heat fan to do? Well, you can watch the goody-two-shoes San Antonio Spurs lock horns with the boorish Detroit Pistons in an NBA finals that has little pizzazz or glamour. (And no, Tony Parker's girlfriend, Desperate Housewives' Eva Longoria, clapping in the stands like a cheerleader doesn't count.) Or you can listen to the collected musical works of Shaq.

Every casual NBA observer knows that the man who likens himself to a basketball Superman does hip-hop on the side. (He almost had a film career too, until the dumb-as-a-doornail superhero flick Steel derailed it.) Several weeks ago he teamed up with DJ Irie to release The Kingz of Miamimixtape. Only a few thousand copies were pressed though, so good luck finding it. You're better off looking into Shaq's mid-Nineties rap career.

Since no self-respecting music aficionado would actually have a Shaquille O'Neal album in his/her library (encyclopedic DJs and novelty record collectors excepted), and I don't get paid enough to hunt down and buy his old albums, I had to search for them on the Internet. That also proved to be nearly impossible, since not even a self-respecting Internet geek has any Shaq albums. However, I did find some of his wonderful songs, which I will now share with you. Happy downloading!

Fu-Schnickens, "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)": This twelve-inch single introduced Shaq's mumbling charms to the hip-hop nation via Das EFX wannabes Fu-Schnickens. After the Brooklyn trio rambles incoherently about, among other things, Bugs Bunny cartoons, the big man's pared-down lyrics come as a sweet relief. Throwing down rhymes like a tomahawk dunk, he says, "I'm gonna be a Shaq knife [Like a shank knife, get it?]"; claims, "I'm supercallifragalistic-Shaq-a-docious"; and wraps up with "I ain't no joke/Now I slam it, jam it, and make sure it's broke."

"I Know I Got Skills" fromShaq Diesel: How in hell did Shaq's debut album go platinum? Back in 1993 there was so little hip-hop in stores that people bought any rap tape, whether it was Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle or MC Hammer's Too Legit to Quit. Crossover pop rap like Shaq Dieselsold more than anything else, since most kids still thought hip-hop was party music, not a serious musical art form.

Shaq Diesel's biggest hit was "I Know I Got Skills," a gold-certified single locked in the G-funk era. "Yo, Jeff, why don't you give me a hoopin' beat or somethin'," says Shaq to producer/guest rapper Def Jeff, purring in a style similar to Pete Rock. Then he throws down the monster rhymes: "I get dirty after dark/I'll hit you like Spielberg/You'll get Jur-ass-kicked in the park!"

"No Hooks" and "My Biological Didn't Bother" fromShaq Fu: Da Return: If much of Shaq Diesel was nothing but a G-thang, baby, the gold-certified Shaq Fu: Da Return was mired in mid-Nineties East Coast rap. Exhibit A: the hilarious "No Hooks," costarring RZA and Method Man. As RZA pounds out one of his generic piano beats, Shaq comes with the quickness: "Static, you don't want none, you best keep lookin'/A-E-I-O-U an ass whoopin'!"

But on "My Biological Didn't Bother," Shaq offered a newly serious side, predating by several years Eminem's Oedipal jousts with his moms. Lyrically inspired by Pete Rock and CL Smooth's "They Reminisce over You (T.R.O.Y.)," he saluted his stepfather, Philip Arthur Harrison. "My biological father left me in the cold/At two months old," he says, "Phil is my father/Because my biological didn't bother" -- even after the latter started making pathetic appearances on the Ricki Lake Show.

"You Can't Stop the Reign" fromYou Can't Stop the Reign: On his third album, Shaq unveiled a new crew, TWIsM (an acronym for "The World Is Mine"). The title single found him confidently trading (ghostwritten?) verses with the King of New York himself, Biggie Smalls. "Seven-zero/Towering inferno/Invincible, smooth individual," rhymes the LA Laker superman. You Can't Stop the Reign tanked though. He went on to release two more albums, but it seemed as if the Shaq era had finally ended. Then last year he came roaring back with ...

"You're Not the Fighting Type" from DJ Vlad'sHot in Here, Vol. 5: Shaq made sports headlines everywhere when he "hosted" LA veteran Vlad the Butcher's 2004 mixtape. On "You're Not the Fighting Type," he begins by clowning MC Skillz, who has often bragged about ghostwriting songs for him, but quickly segues into a dismissal of Kobe Bryant: "You remind me of Kobe Bryant, trying to be high as me/But you can't, even if you get me traded/Wherever I'm at, I'm Puffy, you're Mase, and you're still hated." He may have made a mistake by cutting on Ben Wallace though ("I ain't got no response for spider-web head"). It's no wonder Shaq didn't rap on The Kingz of Miami; "You're Not the Fighting Type" may have helped the Miami Heat lose the Eastern Conference finals.

 
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