A few years ago, Stereogum’s own Collin Robinson — a great music writer who has also played basketball professionally, and who is thus better-equipped to tackle this question than anybody else on the planet — published a list of the all-time best rappers who are also NBA players. Collin placed Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers point guard and four-time All Star, at #2. The only person ahead of him on that list was Shaquille O’Neal, the retired Hall Of Fame center who, for a few years, had a lucrative side hustle making rap records. It might be time to revise that list, since Lillard and O’Neal are now engaged in a public rap beef.
Shaq’s rap career gets made fun of a lot, but he was always an effective bulldozer presence, and he had the vision to team up with many of his era’s rap greats. Shaq has songs in the vault with the Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, Black Thought, Common, Ice Cube, KRS-One, and DJ Quik. He also had that video where he asked Kobe Bryant how his ass tasted. Shaq has four albums, including one platinum and one gold. Lillard, on the other hand, hasn’t tried to make a career out of rapping, but he’s been posting impressive freestyles online for a few years, rapping under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A.
As TMZ reports, Lillard appeared on Joe Budden’s podcast last week and argued that he’s a better rapper than Shaq: “People weren’t looking at it like it’s a real rapper. It was like, ‘that’s Shaq rapping.'” Shaq took exception. In a weirdly lo-fi track uploaded to YouTube yesterday, Shaq went in over the beat from Dr. Dre’s “What’s The Difference” — a song that came out when Dame Lillard was 10 years old — and spent four minutes targeting Lillard: “What’s in your wallet? American Express or Visa? / Talking like you ‘Bron, you ain’t even Trevor Ariza… Call me when get a back-to-back-to-back / Why would I wanna be a rapper? Rappers wanna be Shaq.”
Today, Lillard retaliated, posting a song called “Reign Reign Go Away” on SoundCloud and doing a darting trap flow that feels much-more up-to-date than Shaq’s ’90s growl. Lillard got his shots in, too: “Nursery rhyme spittin’ / Small car sittin’ / Icy Hot poster-boy, TNT snitchin’… Call 911, dusting off the Porsche / Look inside that statue at Staples and find a corpse… Said that max was little? That $250 million crispy / Can’t recall you getting that when I was cruising on a ten-speed.”
Intergenerational NBA-great rap feuds, it turns out, are extremely entertaining.