New York rapper Nas is accepted the world over as one of hip-hop’s greatest lyricists, with his debut album, Illmatic, recognised as arguably the best hip-hop album ever released. While Nas allowed his music to do the talking, his longstanding feud with Jay-Z arguably elevated his iconography, with the beef being nothing short of legendary.
Being held in such high regard, it is little wonder that fans were taken aback when the rapper declared former NBA basketball player Shaquille O’Neal’s album a “classic hip-hop album!”
As well as playing basketball, O’Neal, commonly known as Shaq, has made music with some of the best in the business, including Biggie Smalls, Nate Dogg and even Nas himself. In fact, many basketball players have tried their hand at music, including Allen Iverson, the late Kobe Bryant and Damian Lillard, who went by the pseudonym DOLLA.
When interviewed by an LA Times reporter at the 2012 ESPY awards, the rapper was asked to pick between Bryant and O’Neal as to who was the better rapper. In response, Nas responded: “Kobe or Shaq? Shaq got a classic hip-hop album! I don’t think Kobe got a chance to put out an album. So Shaq got a classic rap album and sold a million records, yeah. Shaq got that title.”
Following the interview, the reporter also asked former Lakers forward Cedric Ceballos the same question, with his response being similar to that of the New York rapper. However, Ceballos further criticised Bryant’s music, proclaiming, “The stuff that he put out was real commercial. It wasn’t the real Kobe”, in what is most likely a reference to his commercial hits such as ‘Kobe’, which featured supermodel Tyra Banks in its music video.
Surprising to many hip hop heads, Nas most definitely shocked fans by declaring O’Neal’s album a “classic”, with many finding it quite unusual, to say the least.
See the interview in full below.