Beef? What beef?
“The thing that went on for me and him was just for fun,” Shaq declared at this week’s “NBA on TNT American Express Road Show” event in Los Angeles. “I think he’s really, really good and he’s very talented. We had fun.”
O’Neal’s comments come a month after posting a song seemingly directed at Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazer-cum-rapper Dame D.O.L.L.A., who claimed in a recent interview that he had more flow than Shaq Fu. Lillard responded days later with his own diss track, titled “Reign Reign Go Away,” digging at Shaq with references to Kobe Bryant, Icy Hot and yes, his appearances on TNT; in an interview with Rolling Stone, Lillard said he penned “Reign Reign Go Away” in 45 minutes, and its follow-up diss track, “I Rest My Case,” in 20.
But Shaq seems to have taken the back-and-forth in stride, if not exactly ready to back down.
“We all come from the same place,” O’Neal says, diplomatically. “My thing is, if you say you’re better than me, I accept the challenge. If he says ‘I look better than you,’ then okay, I gotta hit the gym and work out; if he says ‘My shoes are whiter than yours,’ then I gotta go to the store and pick out a better pair. Other people take that stuff personally but I don’t,” he explains. “If you challenge me, I’ll step up to the challenge.”
Though the feud appears to have simmered down, don’t expect Shaq and Lillard to get together and talk it out Taylor Swift and Katy Perry-style anytime soon. “We are competitors, we don’t pick people’s brains,” he says, adding: “[Lillard] doesn’t need my advice.” Lillard similarly told Rolling Stone, “My battle rap days are over.”
The D.O.L.L.A.-dunking track Shaq posted to Instagram has already amassed almost 200,000 views, and it’s sparked renewed interest – whether intentionally or ironically – in the 47-year-old’s rap career. But while the former Lakers star reveals that he has “like a hundred unreleased tracks” in the vault, they’ll be for his ears only – for now.
“I’ll do [music] for fun but I’m not getting back into it,” he says. “I’ve been there, done that, went platinum twice with two terrible albums.” (O’Neal actually sold a million copies of his debut album, Shaq Diesel and its follow-up, Shaq Fu: Da Return was certified Gold).
“The funny thing is, rappers want to be NBA players and NBA players want to be rappers, but I was the first one,” he heaves. “Want me to be honest?” he says. “There’s not enough money in the rap game for me.”
And while a quick glance at his Spotify profile reveals a mix of “white guy classics” (his words) and “slow jams” (Spotify’s words), the guy who dropped a surprise DJ set at the Lost Lands Festival last year is keeping up to date on the current music scene too, shouting out everyone from Halsey to Tyla Yaweh as current faves. “He’s a kid from Orlando and his album is fuckin’ dope,” Shaq says, throwing up the plug. “He’s really good.”
Diesel’s deep voice and mumbled pronunciation of “Tyla” makes it seem like he’s referring to a completely different artist at first. “Oh Taylor [Swift]?” he asks. “Yeah, I like her too.”
Can he relate to Swift dealing with rivalries and haters in the industry? The hulking host says the view is different from the top.
“If you’ve got an American Express, you don’t need to worry about a Visa,” he says, slipping in a plug for his TNT show’s sponsor (Shaq has also served as an Amex ambassador since 2016). “Some people are so caught up in their egos, but I don’t have any of that,” he shrugs. “I’m just a regular guy…with a black card.”