Review Summary: Shaquille O'Neal's debut record is an extremely weak one packed with plenty of laughs, but really was never intended to be.
Shaquille O'Neal was only a mere 20 years old when he entered onto Arsenio Hall's show on December 2nd, 1992. He was already becoming a sensation, becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft after 3 successful years at LSU and selected by the Orlando Magic, and one month into his rookie season lighting up the league. Nobody has ever seen a basketball player turn into a rapper, and that's what shocked and surprised many when after being interviewed by Hall, grabbed the mic and performed "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" with his favorite rap group the Fu-Schinckens. His unexpected delivery and flow basically stole the show, and after just one performance was offered a two-album deal from Jive Records the next day. His concept, as stated in his 2011 memoir "Shaq Uncut" was to "not rap by myself" but "rap with all my favorite artists". The next year in 1993 he would get his wish, delivering his debut album "Shaq Diesel" to the masses and was a commercial success, earning some of its singles on regular rotation on the radio, BET, and on MTV. It would also go on and earn a platinum certification from the RIAA, the only time a basketball player has ever earned such an honor. "Shaq Diesel" however was pretty terrible, not because of the incredible roster of producers and guest stars, but because of the cheesy and absolutely bad lyrics that plague the entire 12-track album that has become a pop culture classic.
Shaq's first track "(I Know I Got) Skillz" sees him stumble badly out of the gate, delivering incredibly terrible lines like "I dribble rhymes like basketballems/People call me E.T (What's that Shaq man?)" with otherwise corny sound effects that are prevalent throughout the track. This track also stole so much from the hip-hop classic "Nuthin' But A G-Thang" from Dre and Snoop that there was no mistaking its unoriginality, with its similar chord progressions and sound. The lines are no doubt hilarious and funny, but it never sounded like Shaq intended that to be seen that way which is why this album really wasn't that great. "I Hate 2 Brag" is no doubt one of the worst tracks on the album, delivering again ridiculously mediocre lines like "I'm cool like a breeze/I'm finished rappin'/no autographs please" with a lack of decent flowing from Shaq. He would fortunately fix up those mistakes on his speed and versatility later in his short-lived rap career, but this to start with was pretty bad. "Let Me In, Let Me In" continues the mediocrity of the album, again with Shaq throwing in weird lines like in the chorus with "(Shaquille, let me in, let me in)/not by the hairs of my chinny chin chin" and a unexpected scream that sounds like Michael Jackson. "Where Ya At?" keeps it going, with a horrid guest appearance by Phife Dawg who delivers just as bad lines as Shaq like "Pissing and a farting". The chorus is pretty annoying and the tag-team rhyming between the two doesn't work out well.
Their is bright spots in this debut, but it certainly isn't enough to dig out Shaq from the hole he put himself in. "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" is definitely the best on the album, with his favorite rap group the Fu-Schinckens making their presence known and turns out well. Shaq actually puts out some pretty slick lines, shouting out his Orlando Magic CEO while also taking shots at his rivals at the draft like "Forget Tony Danza, I'm the boss/when it comes to money, I'm like Dick DeVos". "Outstanding" is also another solid track, with various samples from James Brown, LL Cool J, The Gap Band, and Yarbrough & Peoples meshed together well by producer Eric Sermon with Shaq shying away from the corny and cheesy raps to settle for more serious stuff which turns out well. Shaq again throws up nice lines like "Cause their is some things I gotta do /tape up the ankle, pump-up my Shaq shoe", this side of Shaq unfortunately rarely showed until "You Can't Stop The Reign" in 1996 but this is the kind of stuff Shaq should've done more in abundance of in his early stages. Aside from Phife Dawg, the guest appearances were pretty well-done with the Fu-Schinckens and Def Jeff as the obvious highlights. Production-wise it was well-done, thanks to talented guys like Sermon, Def Jef, K-Cut, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Meech Wells delivering decent beats, capturing the sound of 1993 hip-hop with New York jazz rap and the style of West Coast G-Funk. It is done again in the second album "Shaq Fu: Da Return" but rarely seen in his final two records, but this style aside from a couple standout tracks just doesn't fit well for O'Neal at all.
"Shaq Diesel" is an extremely weak first attempt of making music for Shaquille. The corny, cheesy and hilarious lyricism that is pretty prominent throughout the album plagues the 12-track debut record, with weirdo lines like "I'm about to rip it to shreds, no smithereens/Eat you like a sandwich (what kind?)/SUBMARINES!!!" in the track "Boom!" that end up being near impossible to take seriously. While their is a couple shining spots with standout tracks "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock)" and "Outstanding", along with decent production and a few fantastic guest appearances, "Shaq Diesel" cannot save itself from the massive cold streak it is in. If this was meant to be a comedy hip-hop album and was intended to be, it certainly does its job very well as the line structure and sound effects in some of the tracks make it pretty hilarious and funny. It probably would've even gone down as one of the best comedy albums to ever grace music, easily destroying guys like The Lonely Island. Unfortunately it wasn't supposed to end up that way which is why it is so sub-par and ridiculously dull. It wasn't the only issue either, as Shaq's clumsy and slow rapping technique stood out as a major issue and showed why basketball players weren't meant to be rappers or anything outside of their profession. If you're a Shaq fan, it is definitely a must-buy especially with bargin prices for the debut starting at just $0.01 for a used audio CD at Amazon. It might just be a good reason to even order it regardless if you love or hate Shaq, as it is one that will certainly put a ton of laughs into your system.