Shaquille O’Neal on Being a DJ and the Time Michael Jackson Tried to Buy His House

Shaq performing as DJ Shaq Diesel

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal memorably swapped out his NBA jersey for armor in 1997 to portray DC’s high-tech superhero Steel. Twenty-one years later, with Marvel’s Black Panther currently ruling the box office to the tune of more than $900 million worldwide, how would Steel hold up against Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in a fictitious showdown in 2018?

“If I had the same technology and spaceships that Black Panther has in Wakanda, I’d definitely beat him up,” Shaq said jokingly, noting that he’s already seen Black Panther half a dozen times, during an interview with Men’s Journal. “I’m actually thinking about putting some money together and re-doing [Steel], but I don’t know yet.”

Although Shaq’s Steel sequel is up in the air, what we do know is the 7-foot-1 Shaq-of-all-trades is embarking on another music project—Shaq’s Fun House—during this month’s Ultra Music Festival. Shaq previously did a set as DJ Diesel at TomorrowWorld in 2015, released a platinum-selling rap album in 1993, and even collaborated with King of Pop Michael Jackson on the tracks “2 Bad” and “We Be Ballin’” in the ’90s.

In this Q&A, Shaq discusses his latest music venture, his love for Black Panther, and that one time Michael Jackson tried to buy his house.

Hi, Shaq. Happy belated 46th birthday.
Thank you, brother. Every day is my birthday, especially when I can talk to you.

If you could have any artist in history sing “Happy Birthday” to you, who would it be?
Prince and the Revolution with their guitars. They could sing “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain” and I’d be happy.

You’ve been making music since you were 14 and later released several rap albums in the 1990s. Who are some artists killing the game today?
Travis Scott is one of the best I’ve seen perform. And A$AP Rocky, I called him for my son’s 18th birthday party and he and YG killed it. Everybody that’s hot right now pretty much knows what they’re doing and they’re doing a great job. I normally go see top DJs now rather than a single performer.

You also collaborated with Michael Jackson in the ’90s. What’s a happy memory you have about working with him or being his friend?
Well, one thing about Michael Jackson, especially being in the studio with him, is this guy was a perfectionist. He’s very hands-on… He would get every sound just right. He pulled up the fader and mixed it and said, “OK, Shaq, I’m ready.” I went in saying to myself, “This is Michael Jackson, I can’t be bullshitting to him.” I did one or two takes and he was like, “Oh, my god, thank you.” We were friends. The first time I met him, he came to my house and tried to buy my house because I had the biggest bed in the world. He sat on my bed for the like three hours and wanted to buy my house. I said, “Michael, I love you, but my house ain’t for sale.” It was in Orlando and the house was 67,000 square feet.

Five years ago, because of your 1997 movie Steel, I asked you who would win in a battle: Iron Man or Steel? You said, “Iron Man has me because he has better technology.” What about Black Panther vs. Steel?
Steel was the first African-American superhero. If I had the same technology and spaceships that Black Panther has in Wakanda, I’d definitely beat him up. I’m actually thinking about putting some money together and re-doing [Steel], but I don’t know yet. I watched Black Panther like six or seven times. It was fabulous to watch. Great job putting it together. Great cast. The tech was great. The special effects were freaking amazing. I remember watching Superman when I was a youngster and thinking this was the greatest movie I had ever seen. Now with the special effects, they have to make Black Panther but still give it that reality look for this new generation of kids, it’s awesome. That’s why I went back so many times.

What are some of your go-to songs you listen to?
I like old school, but all these young, hot artists, I listen to them. My DJ sets are hip-hop mixed with trap and EDM. I like hip-hop to classics. I always try to have Nirvana in my sets, like “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I’ll throw some Calvin Harris in there. Being a performer all my life, I understand how to make people jam. People who come to festivals only want to do one thing: jam and have a good time. It’s the DJ’s job to ensure that that happens. I’ll definitely make that happen [at Ultra Music Festival during Miami Music Week].

Speaking of Ultra Music Festival, you’re bringing Shaq’s Fun House to Miami during the wee hours of March 24 at a secret warehouse venue. What’s this fun house?
Shaq’s Fun House will blend both carnival and festival elements bringing forth a collection of the world’s top 10 DJs, theatrical performers and wild carnival attractions. We’ll have two stages, a Fantasy Cabaret Show with carnival performers, flamethrowers, sword swallowers and over-the-top games. It’s going to be a festival-sized production. The city starts to shut down at 1:30 or 2 a.m., so at 2 we’re going to tell you, “nope, we want you to come to Shaq’s Fun House for a couple hours and you definitely won’t be going home until 6 or 7.”

Other than yourself, DJ Shaq Diesel, what other DJs will be performing at Shaq’s Fun House? Anybody else from the Ultra lineup? I see The Chainsmokers in the promo video. Maybe DJ Snake, Marshmello, Steve Aoki or Tiesto?
The top 10 DJs in the world. Not the top 10 local DJs. Not the top 10 regional DJs. The top 10 DJs in the world will be there. They’re friends of mine. I’ve watched them perform. They’ve watched me perform. It’s all about having fun and making people jump up and down. I’m not going to tell you any names. I can’t tell you any names… We just want to have 1,000% ridiculous fun… This is something we want to take all around the world, not just as a one-time thing.

I saw you DJ a set at TomorrowWorld in 2015. How would you describe DJ Diesel’s personality and music style?
More hip-hop, trap and definitely a lot of bass and techno sounds. But it’s designed to get people jumping and bobbing their heads. I went to TomorrowWorld 2014. I broke in, rode in on an F-150, big tires, rode straight past security, didn’t have any credentials. A lady stopped me and goes, “Oh, it’s Shaq, park right over there.” So I’m parked in a dangerous area right behind the stage next to the fireworks. Someone was pissed at me, so I said, “Listen, brother, I don’t have credentials but I heard about this thing; can I just stay and watch?” He said sure and this was the most beautiful scene I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen anything like it. There was a sea of people out there, different nations, different genres of people, jumping up and down with their flags. What I really noticed at a venue that large is that I didn’t see a lot of cops. But guess what? People who go to festivals to have a good time and that’s it. This was the first festival I went to and I was like wow, so I turned around and said, “I know you don’t know me. My name is Shaq and I’d love to do this next year… Give me a chance and I’ll definitely become a top DJ.” So I sent him mixes and videos of me doing shows. He didn’t give me a big stage, but he gave me a little stage and I rocked that thing.

Anything else you would like to add?
I just want to say you have a great magazine. My body will never look like Charles Barkley’s body. I will reveal myself probably in June. Right now I have a 4.2 pack but I want y’all to bring it up to an 8 pack.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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