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Shaq on Pre-Super Bowl Party, Recording Music With Kobe and Returning to Rap: “Shaq Is the Best Rapper/Athlete Ever”

Shaquille O’Neal retired from the NBA 13 years ago, but he’s never lost his competitive spirit.

When he’s asked about becoming the second player in NBA history to have three retired jerseys, he asks, “Who’s first?” When he speaks about coming back to the hip-hop music scene, he commands: “I have to make sure they say, ‘Shaq is the best rapper/athlete ever.’”

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His competitive nature is also the reason why he’s returning with his wild and epic pre-Super Bowl party Shaq’s Fun House, which is in its sixth year and will take place at Las Vegas’ XS Nightclub at Wynn on Feb. 9, two days before the Big Game. “I’m a jealous competitor. The reason why we’re doing Shaq’s Fun House? I want people to say that’s the best party ever,” he explains to THR.

“It’s competition. We got into this because I got tired of going to parties and spending a lot of money and not having any fun. $60k for the plane, $50k for the rooms for me and my boys. [You] got to call people and get passes when you get there. It just was a nightmare,” he continues. “So I was like, ‘We need to create our own thing.’”

O’Neal, who has been living in Sin City for 30 years, is hoping to give partygoers a good night out with his carnival-styled extravaganza, which will include performances by Lil Wayne, Diplo and O’Neal himself, who moonlights as electronic dance DJ Diesel.

In an interview, O’Neal talks about his upcoming party, why he booked Lil Wayne, recalls recording music with Kobe Bryant, and explains how he jumped on the remix of Rick Ross and Meek Mill’s recent hit “Shaq & Kobe.”

NBA Hall of Fame member Shaquille O'Neal performs a set as DJ Diesel following a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on July 01, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
NBA Hall of Fame member Shaquille O'Neal performs a set as DJ Diesel following a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on July 01, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What makes this year’s Shaq’s Fun House special?

I’m dropping my prices to $99. Yeah. Shaq does not take advantage of the people. I never want to take advantage of the people. We know it’s going to be a lot of people there. We know it’s going to be competition there, but I’m guaranteeing nobody dropping their prices. That’s what’s going to make us stand out. It’s going to be a great event.

Lil Wayne for $99 is not bad. Why is he the perfect performer for this event?

I actually been knowing him since he was a youngster in Louisiana. Icon. [He’s the] Michael Jordan, LeBron, Kobe of hip-hop. Don’t like to use the word “crossover,” but everybody loves him. I was at the L.A. Super Bowl with [Dr.] Dre when they were performing, and you always think that’s us, and I look over at my white friends [and they’re singing] offbeat, “Ain’t nuthin’ but a G…” Like, no, you’re offbeat. So any Lil Wayne song, people are going to know the words. And he’s a great performer.

Music helps a lot of athletes prep for games — who were the artists that inspired you before you played?

So since I’m a rugged player, anything Death Row and anything No Limit. Wu-Tang. Anything that had that thump thump, because I had to be in g-mode. You know the word I’m looking for.

You returned to rap last year and have released a ton of songs. What made you want to get back to rapping?

In the rap game, I take it personal when they say somebody else is better than me and [you know] the name I’m talking about. So listen, I love him, good friend of mine, but I have to make sure they say “Shaq is the best rapper/athlete ever.” Ain’t no “Shaq and…” Look, it’s just all fun. I don’t want to be a rapper. I tried it and the money, it was cool but I was making more money doing other things. It’s just to drop something, go viral, read the comments. And then I’m the type that when I get criticized, I don’t get sensitive, it just motivates me. So you can say whatever you want to say about me — you can’t hurt my feelings. I’ll see something [like] “but Dame [D.O.L.L.A. aka Damian Lillard] is better.” Oh, he is? I just start writing again. So I got about 10 that I’m just lining up. I even shot videos, too.

Did you hear Rick Ross and Meek Mill’s “Shaq & Kobe” before you jumped on the remix?

Rick sent it to me first, so I didn’t even have his permission, so I just looped it and I went in and I was like, “I hope you like it.” And I sent it to him. He said, “Man, you did that fast.” So then he hit me back, “Can I use it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And then he got really too professional on me — he started sending paperwork. I said, “Bro, you don’t need to. I don’t want no money.” I’m like, “Rick, I don’t want nothing, bro.” I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be on the song. And then when I heard Dame on it, I was like, “Mother effer, mother effer.”

How does it feel to be on a song about your legacy with Kobe?

When he sent it to me, I knew what he was talking about. He was saying that him and Meek were there together — they’re so dominant that there’s really no comparison.

Former Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant speaks during unveiling of Shaquille O'Neal statue during at Staples Center March 24, 2017, in Los Angeles, California.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in 2017.

You and Kobe recorded music years ago. Do you remember that session? What was that like? 

He came in, knocked it out in 10 minutes and left. It was me, him and DJ Clark Kent. He came in, knocked it out. Kobe’s smart. Don’t let that mamba fool you. Kobe is very super intelligent. And this is when you could put a lot of words in the rap, he came in with the big words and we didn’t really promote it. We didn’t want to really promote it like that, but it’s still out there.

You also recorded with legends like Biggie and Jay-Z. What do you remember about those sessions?

So that’s why I actually signed my record deal. Look, I never wanted to be a rapper. I did The Arsenio Hall Show with Fu-Schnickens. My agent called me the next day. He said, “Man, you want me to entertain this?” He’s like, “They’re offering you a three-album record deal for $10 million?” I said, “What? $10 million for three albums?” I was like, “Say that again.” Yeah, $10 million for three albums.

And one thing I have, I’m realistic. I’m like, “I can’t do fucking three albums by myself.” So then I said, “OK, tell them I want to do collabs with my favorite artists and if they don’t accept that, I’m not going to do it. I ain’t going to put myself out there. I’m not a rapper.” So that was my whole thing. And then I was a kid that was chasing dreams. So I was like, “Hey, Redman’s from my neighborhood. Call him up. “Red, this Shaq.” “Oh man, what’s up?” “Hey man, I’m doing an album, you think you can get Erick Sermon?” “Let me call you back.” They called me back, they’re like, “I got Fu-Schnickens, got Erick Sermon and Redman.” “Hey, you know Puff?” “Yeah.” Hollered at Puff and said, “OK, we’ll get Biggie.” “You know Fat Joe?” Because all these guys were basketball fans, a lot of them said yes.

But what they did to secure their integrity, I had to try out. So when Erick Sermon came, I had to rap so they made sure it wasn’t gimmicky. But see, they didn’t understand that we’re all the same people. I was doing it just as long as them. And when they were coming out, I had their style, I had that flow. I was a master freestyler … I was always quick at that. So every producer that came in, once I rapped for the first time and they saw I was serious, they said, “OK, that’s dope.” And then they would just fine tune it up.

Shaquille O'Neal aka DJ Diesel performs onstage during Shaq’s Fun House presented by FTX at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Shaquille O'Neal aka DJ Diesel performs onstage during Shaq’s Fun House presented by FTX at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

I just read that you’re the second NBA player to have three retired jerseys — how does that feel?

Oh, who’s the first? See, that pisses me off right now. I’m so pissed right now. Would it be Wilt? Magic? Michael?

Chamberlain!

Mother…. Mother…

You are really competitive.

Oh, I am. Oh, I’m pissed. Damn it.

But it’s still an amazing legacy.

No. No. I don’t even want it anymore.

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