Album Review: Shaquille O’Neal – Shaq Diesel

Shaquille O’Neal, more commonly known as ‘Shaq’ is an American former professional basketball player, whose career lasted for 19 years, from 1992 until 2011. Throughout his career he was considered to be one of the greatest players to play the game, being honoured by the NBA (National Basketball Association) twice, once in 1996 for the 50th Anniversary Team, and again in 2021, being named for the 75th Anniversary Team. The latter of which happened roughly a decade after he left the sport proving his enduring legacy as an overpowering low post presence, with a focus on power, and a notable slam dunk percentage. Throughout his career he played for six teams, including Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns. Post Basketball, he joined ‘Inside the NBA’ as a sports analyst, even presenting his own weekly segment ‘Shaqtin’ a Fool’ which shows blooper highlights from professional games. 

In addition to his sports career, he has also been featured in various roles in Television and Film, most notably Blue Chips, Kazaam and Steel. I would like to add that Steel, despite receiving mixed reviews, is a personal favourite of mine, and I’ll be reviewing it in the near future. It also has the distinction, alongside The Meteor Man and Blade, of being one of the first movies to showcase African American actors in prominent roles as superheroes all the way back in the 90s. Today, I will be reviewing his debut album ‘Shaq Diesel’ which was released on October 26, 1993, and went on to sell over 1 million copies, and reached platinum status. 

‘Intro’ opens up with Shaq’s draft announcement for the Orlando Magic back in 1992, and I like that, it ties together what was a huge milestone in his career, and introduces us to who Shaq is. It blends seamlessly from the cheering of the crowd to a beat heavy melody that incorporates in record scratches and is very busy, it contains some solid vocal hooks, and has a solid energy, although could be a little too scattered if it were longer. 

‘(I Know I Got) Skillz (featuring Def Jef)’ has a nice, tonal vibe to it, very synth driven, and yet with a solid melodic undertone. Shaq is a deft vocalist, his rapping style captures a nice pace and energy and his lyrics flow really well. In fact, despite Def Jef, who is featured on this track alongside Shaq, already having been on the rap/hip-hop scene for a while, and having already established his style and skill, Shaq holds his own proving that he does in fact have the skillz. 

‘I’m Outstanding’ opens with some clapping that merges into the overall beat, which is faster percussive elements overlaid over slower ones, with the occasionally funky twang that all come together to create a solid rhythm through which Shaq rhymes and raps. His voice is really nice to listen to, and it helps to elevate the whole track. I like the energy of this one in particular, and you feel Shaq’s confidence, which could easily be confused for ego, but he’s pushed and worked for his success and no one would say he doesn’t deserve to be proud of his accomplishments. I especially liked this track, because it has a really good narrative structure, with a memorable and fun vocal hook at the end of each section. 

‘Where Ya At? (featuring Phife Dawg)’ has a heavier percussive drumbeat, with a horn intermingled, and the balance of the call and response element between Shaq and Phife Dawg really works as we are led into the track. And man if you really listen to the lyrics, Shaq is a strong lyricist, he produces lines competently and performs them clearly, because it’s a pet peeve of mine when you just cannot understand what an artist is saying. I feel like this is more evenly distributed between the two vocalists, whereas Shaq dominated the previous track to feature another vocalist. 

‘I Hate 2 Brag’ opens with talking and the sound of a basketball game, and this song calls back to ‘(I Know I Got) Skillz’ specifically the Def Jef featuring in it. I think out of the tracks so far this is the strongest in terms of both the hook and the lyrics, because it’s catchy, has a smooth beat and it’s a little quirky as well which makes it more memorable. 

‘Let Me In, Let Me In’ kicks up with some reverbed hollering that blends into a quick paced, percussive melody. I like the other vocal accompaniments throughout that add to the overall composition but honestly Shaq who was untested as a vocalist prior to this takes the risk of letting this and most of the songs rest on his own voice and lyricism, and it really pays off because he does both justice, creating tracks which work really well capturing the energy and style of the 90s, as well his own larger than life personality, and all without seeming like a novelty. 

‘Shoot Pass Slam’ kicks off quickly, another higher energy track, with a nice back and forth that really works. I mentioned earlier and want to return to the fact that Shaq could have easily phoned this in, but there’s real skill, not just in the delivery or in the composition of the track and the lines he raps, but also there’s an actual personality here. You can really feel Shaq’s influence in this song, and sure as someone who was born in the 90s and is also not American there may occasionally be references that I personally don’t know but fundamentally Shaq proves in this and so far each entry in this debut album that he knows how to make clever, funny and high energy tracks. 

‘Boom! (featuring Fu-Schnickens)’ really captures the humorous energy, Shaq due to his height and raw power, could easily be an intimidating figure but something I’ve always liked about him is that he has a sense of humour and tracks like this have that feel. Other than that it’s another really catchy track, it has a great vibe to it, that has you bopping along with it. I liked that they counterpointed Shaq’s more steady delivery, and deeper voice, with the faster and slightly higher toned vocals of the members of Fu-Schnickens, it really served to make this track stand out. 

‘Are You a Roughneck?’ has a relatively slow build up, synthy tones and horns, with a light percussive overlay leading us into a call and response vocal section, this has more of a staccato delivery throughout but also some of the strongest lyrical contributions of the entire album. I love the offbeat style that he sometimes choses to incorporate, it doesn’t detract from the album, but serves to round it off and show multiple sides to the artist. 

‘Giggin’ on ‘Em (featuring Phife Dawg)’ has a harder and heavier intro than any of the previous tracks, it’s blaring and high energy, and Shaq joins in, a strong and fluid voice, that really takes charge, and as he says in this regarding MC’s Shaq isn’t yelling to get his point across, he just has a powerful and deep voice, and a clear delivery that helps tie things together. 

‘What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock) (featuring Fu-Schnickens)’ opens with a light percussive fill that leads into an alarm sound, and some horns, it really a very off-beat but nonetheless interesting melody that blends into the fast paced and high energy vocals of the members of Fu-Schnickens. I mentioned earlier that this is obviously a product of the 90s, the references especially so it’s actually really cool and fun listening to this in 2022. I think that being said that it holds up, and works really well. 

‘Game Over’ finishes things off, the same way we enter, with the sounds of a basketball game, tying things in a neat little bow, and what a superb album.

So that’s what I thought of Shaquille O’Neal’s album ‘Shaq Diesel’ and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, make sure and support Shaq by checking out his website, and by following him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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