After taking an extended break from his music career, Los Angeles Lakers superstar and platinum-selling rapper Shaquille O’Neal returns. Much anticipated, his new disc is titled “Shaquille O’Neal Presents His Superfriends.”
Rather than a rethink of his approach, “Superfriends” instead furthers Shaq’s engagement with hip-hop as an art form. “I just wanted to take a hiatus for awhile, and just see what was going on. It’s not a directional change at all. I think this album can be regarded more as a challenge. An opportunity for me to challenge myself on all levels as an MC, writer and producer.” The recording also reflects the serious work ethic that drives Shaq, as much of the work was done as he helped bring the Lakers to the NBA playoffs again.
With one of the most eclectic lineups of guest stars ever, the album embraces the many styles and levels of 21st century hip-hop. Shaq’s Superfriends include Nate Dogg (Tha Dogg Pound), RL (NEXT), Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq (Money Boss Players), 112, Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men), Jayo Felony, WC (Westside Connection), Ludacris, Joi (Lucy Pearl), Mos Def, Common and Black Thought (The Roots), Black Rob, Thor-El, Trina, Twista, Talib Kweli, Angie Stone. Producers include Big Tank (producer for Timbaland’s The Beat Club), L.T. Hutton (Snoop Dogg, Tupac), Rick Rock (Jay-Z), Amir (?uestlove of The Roots) and Che Pope (Lauren Hill, Santana, VP Urban A&R for Warner Bros. Records).
“When I decided to record this album I wanted to make it a collaboration of various styles of rap and voices of thought. I wanted to include talented artists both mainstream and underground. I wanted to celebrate the essence and energy of rap that is created by people from different walks of life. I like the mainstream MCs with their jiggy style and the underground MCs who speak conscious rap.
“I consider my project to be a part of the overall efforts of most rappers to express the thoughts and feelings of everyday people. Those expressions may or may not be regarded as positive, just about keepin’ it real.”
Shaq makes it clear that creatively, he’s fully engaged. “Rap music to me is just living in the moment. It’s reactionary. Most of the lyrics are created while you are working in the studio. Rappers don’t come in with written words to say, they just listen and respond to the vibe they feel from the music. So the lyrics may reflect what I experienced that day or two years ago. It could be about love, lost, anger, desire, fear . . . just LIFE.”
With “Superfriends” his fifth album and previous releases reaching gold and platinum status, Shaq long ago established his hip-hop career as more than just a hobby. “I am aware that most people only see me as Shaq, the guy on the court., but there is another side to who I am – Shaquille O’Neal. And Shaquille O’Neal wants to explore every part of life. He wants the opportunity to pursue all of his desires; that includes being a part of the music industry as an MC. Music is and will always be a part of who I am.”
Of the respect he enjoys in the hip-hop community, Shaq says, “Most MCs see that I honor and respect the art. They know I’m not a ‘Super Bowl Shuffle’ rapper.”
“Shaquille O’Neal Presents His Superfriends” will be released on August 7, 2001 through Trauma Records’ joint venture with T.W.IsM. Records, Shaquille O’Neal’s own imprint label.
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most commercially identifiable faces in the world due to his superstar status in the NBA, and is only the third player in league history to be named All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, regular-season MVP and NBA Finals MVP all in one season (1999/00). During the 1999/00 season he led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first title in 12 years. He also gives his time to numerous charitable projects.