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The Shaq I Know

I got Shaquille O'Neal's phone call at about three in the morning. I knew the call was coming, so I was already awake. I knew exactly what this was about.

"Statch," he said as soon I hit "answer" on my cellphone, "I need your help." He didn't even give me a chance to say "hello."

"I did something stupid, Statch. Something really stupid." He was weeping.

"I know, Shaq, and if I'm not mistaken, I'm pretty sure the whole world knows at this point."

"You gotta help me, Statch, you gotta tell me what to do." 'Statch' is sort of a nickname, by the way. Years ago, I was a fairly successful underground rapper who, due to the fact that I was so young at the time, was dubbed by the rap community as 'Statutory Rap' or 'Statch,' by close friends. Shaq, as you've probably deduced yourself, was one of those friends.

"Tell me what to do, Statch. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it. Like old times." Old times. He never would've even gotten himself into this mess if he'd have just listened to me in the first place.

In the early 90's, Shaq was in a bad way. Not in terms of basketball. He was doing fine, I guess, (or as fine as a basketball player could do in the early 90's who isn't on the Bulls). He was in a bad way in terms of rapping. His first CD without a major label, the almost impossible-to-find Oh, Kneel Before O'Neal was a commercial and critical failure. So, Shaq did what any aspiring hip-hop artist did in the early nineties. He came to see me. I gave him credit for having the good sense to choose me as his mentor. He could have gone to see any of the mainstream MC's, but he chose me, (while not the most commercially accepted rapper, I was the undisputed Archbishop of hip-hop to the underground scene), because integrity was important to him.

"Teach me, Statutory Rap, Sir," he said at our first meeting. He was so nervous. And sweaty. Jesus Christ. "Teach me how to rap." I was impressed by his passion, his dedication and his inability to shoot foul shots. It was a character flaw we both shared.

"Alright, Shaq. On the condition that you do exactly as I say, I will help you." Needless to say, Shaq agreed.

Now, I don't like to brag and I don't want to go into the exact details of what I did, but I'll let history do the talking on this one. Shaq's first mainstream album, Shaq Diesel, the one he recorded with me, went double platinum. While the albums that followed didn't have quite as much commercial success, the hip-hop community was in agreement that Shaq was improving as a rapper each and every year, due in no small part to his Sensei, Statutory Rap.

Around 1998, Shaq started getting cocky.

"Let me get into freestyle battles," he'd beg me.

"You're not ready, Shaq. I'll tell you when you're ready. When the time is right, you'll feel it. And I'll tell you." He also was getting more assertive with his lyrical content. In the past, he'd write a line and if it was good we kept it, and if it was retarded we cut it. This, as far as I know, is a good strategy. By 1998, Shaq thought he was all grown up. I remember him trying to push this "Tell me how my ass taste" line for about eight months. He was just crazy about it. Motherfucker wanted to name his next album either Ass-sparagus or 12 Recipes for My Ass (And Accompanying Wines). When he showed me a sheet of lyrics for a new song he was working on, it almost always contained some variation of ass-eating.

"Shaq, this won't do," I'd tell him. "I don't think the image of some other guy eating your butt is one that you'd want to promote. Hip-hop is about a lot of things. Male-on-male ass-chomping is one of the things that can only really be used sparingly. Or not at all. Not at all, in your case. No one wants images of Scotty Pippen 'sucking on a Shaq-Ass-Snack.'"

"No, but he's eatin' it because he lost. Like 'Eat my dust, sucka.' Except it's my butt."

"I know what you think you're saying, 'Quille, but it just isn't coming across. Moving on, you're talking about Biggie way, way too much. It's disrespectful to drop his name every other word. And I think, in the long run, it's just causing more problems for you in terms of clarity. Here you're saying you're 'not as good as Biggie,' and later on you switch to saying that you are Biggie. You say 'Shaq, A.K.A. B.I.G.', which, in addition to being in direct conflict with what you said earlier, just involves way too much spelling. Like, more spelling than you'd ever want to do in a rap song."

"You got it all wrong, Statch. I'm not saying I'm Biggie, I'm just saying that I am big. I just wanted to spell it out...Because I'm so big."

"Right, I know, you want the people to know that you're literally very big...But when you nickname yourself Biggie and B.I.G. right after you finish praising a dead rapper, whose name happens to be B.I.G...well, do I really need to keep talking?" I did. "Do you understand how that might be confusing to some people?"

It was that discussion, the discussion about ass-tasting and Biggie dropping that caused a wound in our relationship that never fully healed and, eventually, led to my very public firing. He'd gotten too big for me, it would seem.

"Whatever you do," I told him the day I cleaned out my desk, "don't second-guess me on that ass-eating thing. I know what I'm talking about. Also, don't ever try to freestyle. And certainly don't dance awkwardly while you do it. Also, promise me you won't still be making fun of Patrick Ewing four years after he retires." I have a real knack for giving oddly specific advice.

And now, here we are. Ten years after my unceremonious departure from the rap super-duo that was Statch and Shaq, he comes begging to me to help him out. I hung up the phone, told him I'd think about it and post my answer on my Cracked Column today. So here goes.

To be honest, Quille, there's nothing I can do for you. Just look at yourself in that video. There hasn't been a bigger sports star falling this hard and this far since Secretariat got drunk and shouted the n-word at the 1996 White House Press Correspondent's Dinner.

This is a huge loss for you, Shaq, and it ends up being a huge win for Kobe. By not responding, Kobe looks like the bigger and better man. Do you know how remarkable that is? Kobe Bryant's a monster. Kobe Bryant, in all likelihood, probably murdered a guy or two. Kobe Bryant is a man who barely - and I mean barely - beat rape charges. (Seriously, who would have thought Paul Pierce would be harder to beat than rape charges?) You called out Kobe, (reeking of a fresh rape trial), and Kobe still manages to look like a real class act in this whole situation. So, between your colossal screw up and your refusal to take my very sound advice, I'm afraid you're on your own. I'm washing my hands of this whole ordeal and, as the Archbishop of Hip-Hop, I am hereby excommunicating you from the hip-hop community.

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Daniel O'Brien

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