Old heads will argue with the younger generation about whether the quality of rap music is better today than it 20 years ago, but the one thing everyone can agree on is that this decade of rap is lacking rap battles. No one wants to go back to the days of the late '90s, when such beefs would escalate to the point of shootings, but the rap game is far more entertaining when two lyricists enter the booth with only humiliation and domination in mind.
Damian Lillard and Shaquille O'Neal are the two most prominent basketball players who have moonlighted as rappers since the turn of the century. Lillard has even released albums, while Shaq's adventures into music during the early 2000s have been well-documented. Last week, Lillard went on the Joe Budden Podcast (for whatever reason) and said he was a better rapper than Big Diesel. Shaq took to Instagram yesterday and released a diss track aimed at Lillard. Lillard responded today in kind. Below you will find both diss tracks, and I recommend listening before hearing my conclusions.
To start off the breakdown, Lillard clearly wins with the cover photo. Shaq went generic, but Dame went for the throat with Shaq's notorious Hot Ones picture. In general, this is a classic old-age vs. new-age rap beef: Shaq brings up all of his past accomplishments and what he was doing while Dame was still growing up, and Lillard utilized the benefit of hindsight to slam Shaq for everything he could.
In his diss, Lillard hit all of Shaq's soft spots that we've all become accustomed to after years of seeing him on TV as a player and broadcaster; he says Kobe won all those rings, made fun of Shaq for his various advertisements like trying to fit himself into a Kia and how he wasn't in shape during his time in Cleveland. He also invented many ways to remind Shaq his time has passed, and boasted that he was in Space Jam while Shaq wasn't. A solid track overall.
But it doesn't measure up to Big Diesel. Shaq had a few excellent lines about Dame's status in the league and how he ain't even Trevor Ariza, but his best moment came when he laid out just who he was making music with when Lillard was a kid. He name-dropped Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill, and even E-40. Dame just can't come back with anything in response to that. Lillard's biggest feature on any of his albums is Lil Wayne, which would have been more notable 10 years ago. Maybe it's something about the old-school delivery that evokes memories of the glorious rap battles of the past, but Shaq's track just hits harder.
Dame D.O.L.L.A made a strong showing, but Shaq still reigns supreme until Lillard can match his resume, on or off the court.