Each week, Sunday School takes a second look at a classic album worth revisiting years after its release. EMMIE staff handpick releases that shaped a genre, defined a generation or deserve recognition despite being left in the distance. Keep up with Sunday School for your weekly dose of dusted-off classics and throwbacks that merit a second spin.
Release Date: October 26, 1993
Good For: ’90s nostalgia, novelty record collections, basketball fanaticism, having a good laugh
Standout Tracks: “(I Know I Got) Skillz”, “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)”
The happiest I ever was in a record store was the day I found Shaquille O’Neal’s 1993 rap album Shaq Diesel. I found the album digging through piles of used CDs, until eventually Shaq appeared. For just $3, I had to buy it right away.
It’s hard to believe that Shaquille O’Neal, the backboard-breaking NBA legend, recorded a full-length rap album. It’s harder to believe that it features production from Ali Shaheed Muhammad and two verses from Phife Dawg, both of A Tribe Called Quest fame. It’s even harder still to believe that his album went Platinum. You read that right, Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal has a Platinum Album. For reference, unquestionably more influential albums that never made it to Platinum in the United States include Radiohead’s In Rainbows, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80.
For a Platinum album, Shaq Diesel is surprisingly hard to find. It’s not on Spotify, it’s unavailable on iTunes, and record stores don’t seem to care too much about it. So when I found it among a pile of other forgotten albums, I was thrilled. I went straight to the cashier, made my friends leave and forced them to listen to Shaq in the car for the next 30 minutes.
It didn’t take long for me to realize why Shaq Diesel is so forgotten. Shaquille O’Neal is not a good rapper. After a painfully cheesy intro, Shaq dives into the lead single “(I Know I Got) Skillz”. I had a great time listening to the first half of the song, mostly in disbelief that Shaq was actually rapping. By the second half of the song, the novelty had worn off and lines like “I got a hand that’ll rock ya cradle / cream you like cheese, spread you on my bagel” took me back to reality. The more I really listened to the album, the more I began to wonder, “how in hell did Shaquille O’Neal ever go platinum?”
As it proceeds, Shaq Diesel continues its descent into mediocrity. I’ll be honest, I never actually finished the album. After songs like “I Hate 2 Brag” and “Shoot Pass Slam”, I gave in to my friends in the backseat desperately pleading to change the music. To this day, I still have no idea how Shaq sold one million records. If Lonzo Ball wants to be the best rapper in Lakers history, he has a long way to go in sales but not in skill. Regardless, I still look back at Shaq Diesel as a great purchase and a memorable afternoon… $3 well spent.