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Shaquille O'Neal

Athletes And Music

Some of the tightest bonds are between jocks and hip-hoppers, who have taken up the rock-and-roll mantle of fame-flaunting, drug-touting behavior. The rap game has seduced many professional athletes, the most prominent of whom, Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal, released his fifth CD last September. "When you watch MTV, you can tell all the musicians want to be athletes, and when you watch ESPN, you can tell all the athletes want to rap," O'Neal says. "Remember, a lot of us came from the same place…."

Some rappers believe O'Neal is fronting, that he owes his success (including that of his platinum debut CD, Shaq Diesel) to slick production and marketing. In 1995 rapper Coolio told Vibe magazine that O'Neal should "stay on the court; he can't rap." It's a decent bet, however, that none of those critics has expressed that sentiment in person to the 7'1", 315-pound dunkmeister. O'Neal, who entitled his latest CD Respect because he wants to be accepted as a legitimate rapper, says, "I'm just the first person to conquer both worlds. I'm not stupid; I know not to pick [bad] beats."

Source: Silver, Michael, Sports Illustrated, May 24, 1999.

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