Rap beef is evolving. Earlier this year, Joe Budden and Nicki Minaj staged an inter-podcast scuffle that managed to say more about the act of aging gracefully (or, in that case, not) in hip-hop than anyone would like to admit. Now, two NBA players with successful side careers as musicians prove that the weird can always get weirder. Five days ago, Shaquille O’Neal posted a song aimed at Damian Lillard after the Portland Trailblazer claimed that he was the better rapper than the larger-than-life legend. For all those scoffing at the idea of Shaq as a rapper, remember: He sold a million copies of his debut album Shaq Diesel and its follow-up, Shaq Fu: Da Return is certified Gold by the RIAA. Now, Lillard has responded with his own track, released on Tuesday.
Below is a breakdown of how the past and present of NBA rap collided.
The Inciting Incident
On a September episode of the Joe Budden Podcast, Damian Lillard visited the popular interview show to promote his recent album, Big D.O.L.L.A. During the sit down, Budden and his co-hosts, Rory and Mal, ask Dame to compare his rap career to Shaq’s impressive run in the early-to-late ’90s. “I think I rap better than Shaq. I’ve heard Shaq’s stuff,” Lillard said. “I think he was viewed as Shaq, though. People was like, this Shaq. It wasn’t like, Shaq and Biggie. People weren’t looking like this a real rapper. It was like, ‘That’s Shaq rapping.’ So, of course, it was a big deal.”
Shaq The Rapping Puppet
Predictably, O’Neal didn’t take kindly to the comments. In retaliation to the perceived slight, Shaq decided to release a Damian Lillard diss record on Instagram. The video is outlandish, and a bit grotesque, as a sickly looking Shaq puppet stands behind a Shaq branded boombox and tells his 13.2 million followers that “It’s time to be disciplined. It’s time to pull out that belt and woop a little ass.”
The ass Shaq is after is presumably Lillard’s, and for four minutes he fares pretty well. Is Shaq’s flow dusty? Yes. Does the entire song sound like it was recorded on a karaoke mic in a hail storm? Absolutely. Is the song hilarious regardless? Why yes, yes it is.
Shaq’s diss is filled with quotables that are effective no matter the delivery, including the searing “Take your time to respond, there is no hurry / You’ll never be Westbrook, never be Curry” and the needlessly specific, “What’s in your wallet, American Express or Visa / Talkin’ like your Bron, You ain’t even Trevor Ariza.” Taken together, it’s clear why Dame had to respond.
Dame’s Disrespectful — And Highly Entertaining — Response
Let’s get this out of the way: Damian “D.O.L.L.A.” Lillard’s “Reign Reign Go Away” is calculated and sinister, a hellraiser of a response. It repeatedly and systematically goes just too far and is far funnier because of how heated Lillard sounds at having to dress down Shaq in a public forum.
Dame goes after every aspect of O’Neal’s career — Blue Chips, Shaq’s ugly shoes, the pretty good 1996 genie movie Kazaam, the mediocre 1994 martial arts game Shaq-Fu, and the Cleveland Cavaliers years. The crown jewel of the track happens when Dame brings up Kobe’s name, and from there delivers every subsequent word with an arena’s worth of acid. “Kobe won you those rings though / Nursery rhyme spitting, small car sitting / Icy Hot poster boy, TNT snitching.”
Shaq started the war, but — for now — Dame did more than enough to finish it.