Picks and Pans Review: Respect

updated 09/28/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/28/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Shaquille O'Neal (TWIsM/A&M)

Being a talented, famous NBA All-Star is clearly not enough for L.A. Laker Shaquille O'Neal. Over the past few years, he has satisfied the artist within by embarking on a moderately successful career in hip hop. Will his microphone stylings give more established rappers like Method Man or LL Cool J nightmares? Hardly. In fact, it's hard to listen to Shaq rhyme without thinking: Here's a guy who has another gig to fall back on.

That's part of the problem once again with this, O'Neal's fifth—and strongest—CD to date. Although there's marked improvement in overall sound (making the cuts undeniably catchy despite their overreliance on samples), the big man at the center remains unremarkable in both his presentation and his rap persona. O'Neal offers up little more than the stereotypical rap subjects: cars, money, women, fame. Even on the funky single "The Way It's Goin' Down," performed with guest rapper Peter Gunz, the rhymes are anything but distinctive. Only when he mentions other athletes or uses basketball lingo do you get a clue that you're listening to Shaquille O'Neal. Granted, it's cool that O'Neal loves hip hop, but he hasn't figured out a way to translate that love into something more than a well-intentioned vanity project.

Bottom Line: Don't quit your day job, Shaq

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