Shaquille O'Neal hasn't rapped in public much over the past few years, but when he does, he makes an impact. (Remember his mixtape back-and-forth with Skillz a few years back?)
And on Monday, footage of him throwing some playful jabs at Kobe Bryant consumed the headlines. "Last week, Kobe couldn't do it without me," Shaq rapped about his former teammate's failed run at the NBA title. (See what the MTV News Hip-Hop Brain Trust had to say about Shaq's rhymes here.)
Snoop Dogg, one of the biggest Lakers fans in the world, called up the Nutz in the Morning radio show in Phoenix on Tuesday (June 24) to give his take on the freestyle.
"I love it, because it only makes for a great game on the court," Snoop told the hosts. "Both of them is rappers; they tried rapping before. They know ain't no rules when it comes to rapping. Shaq has all access and the right to do and say what he wants to say in fun, in the spirit of rap."
On Monday night, TMZ cameramen caught up to Nas, and the Queens MC gruffly said that he didn't see Shaq's freestyle — but he rode with O'Neal nonetheless.
"I heard about it. Shaq is my man — f--- Kobe," he said, with wife Kelis in the background talking to her friends. "Big up to Shaq."
The big guy himself said the rap was all in fun. "I'm totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all," Shaq told ESPN.com on Monday afternoon. "I was freestyling. That's all. It was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. ... That is what MCs do. They freestyle when called upon."
Well, if you don't believe Shaq's explanation, a member of his inner circle is backing him up. He might not be that familiar to sports fans who don't follow rap closely, but hip-hop fans recognized Cory Gunz as the young man onstage with Shaq in the infamous video of his live freestyle.
"That was on my birthday on Sunday," Cory, son of rapper Peter Gunz, told MTV News on Tuesday. "It's all in fun. People thought he was doing it just to take shots at Kobe. He's not even thinking about [Kobe] like that. As a matter of fact, it's no bitterness towards Kobe at all. It was all done in fun to get the crowd hype. That's what real MCs do: get the crowd involved."
O'Neal and the Gunz family were celebrating for Cory at the Village Underground club in lower Manhattan when everyone started grabbing the mic.
"It was a few performers there," Gunz said. "My dad performed. He got on the set, gave me a birthday shout-out. I went up there and performed a couple of verses. After me, Shaquille came up on surprise mode. He was playing around, freestyling, joking around. All that stuff was off the top of his head. On his leisure time he does that. It's all done in fun. He sits around the house and freestyles. He snaps on me. That's what he does. That's Shaquille."
Cory said he has quite a few O'Neal rhymes in the stash waiting to hit the masses. "I got mixtapes with him getting ready to come out," Cory said. "Not a tape — tapes."
Before then, however, the young Gunz is focusing on restarting his solo career and introducing his rap crew, the Militia. "I'mma just put the music where my mouth is," the Bronx native insisted. "The next tape is coming out mid-July, titled The Best Kept Secret."
Gunz was the subject of a You Hear It First feature back in 2005 when the then-17-year-old was lighting the mixtape circuit on fire with a string of street-CD and -DVD appearances. With Tommy Mottola in his corner, Gunz signed a deal with Def Jam Records soon after, but his time on the label was fruitless. ("Things didn't work out as planned," he said. "No bad feelings. We left on good terms.") He was recently granted a release and is hearing offers for a new label home.
Wherever he lands, he'll have the NBA's Man of Steel supporting him. "Shaquille is involved in everything," he said. "He's been helping for years. He's my god-dad. That's my peoples."
Gunz caught back on fire a few weeks ago with his performance over Lil' Wayne's "A Milli" beat. The track was originally planned to be one of several interludes on Weezy's Tha Carter III. Tyga, Hurricane Chris and Lil Mama were among those who were supposed to give their interpretations of "A Milli" as well.
"I was in the house. I had spoken to Wayne a couple of weeks prior when he sent me the record," he remembered. "I was talking to him about a couple things, and he said, 'You know what, I got you.' "
A month later, Wayne's management sent the instrumental for "A Milli."
"I got a slew of mixtapes coming out. I'm still working on my album. I'm about to go real hard," he said. "Everybody better watch their back."