Donald Glover is a Renaissance Man from the mold of mid-90s Shaquille O’Neil
I am not the only person that thinks Donald Glover is amazing. He not only puts out a ridiculous amount of content every year, he does all of it at the highest levels. When he does sketch comedy, “Bro Rape” becomes one of the most popular YouTube videos of 2007. When he writes for TV, he lands a job at 30 Rock. When he does stand up, he gets his own Comedy Central special. When he raps, he dominates the Billboard charts. When he acts, he becomes half of the most popular duo on a cult TV series. When he sings, he gets nominated for Record of the Year. When he creates a TV show, he wins Emmys and Golden Globes. He is the true Renaissance Man.
But to paraphrase what a literal Renaissance Man, Isaac Newton, said, if Donald has seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. While the artist currently known as Childish Gambino seems the first in the modern era to be doing it all, the fact is that in the mid-90s there was a literal giant that was living his best life in a mode similar to Glover. This giant’s name was Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal.
Of course, everyone knows Shaq as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. At 7’1 and over 300 pounds, her was larger than life but moved like an athlete a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter. While Shaq didn’t win any championships during the mid-90s (the only period we’ll focus on today), he was still able to rack up the 1993 Rookie of the Year Award, he earned his way to the All-Star Game every year and got to the NBA Finals, beating a Michael Jordan Bulls team to get there. We’re not even talking about the 4 NBA Championships, MVP award and Basketball Hall of Fame nomination that he earn after the 90s. The man was an amazing athlete. But you already know that.
Now I’m going to admit that while Shaq did star in three movies during the mid 90s (3 ½ if you count his Good Burger cameo), none of the those movies were considered good. Blue Chips, Kazaam and Steel have 37%, 6% and 12% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively, and his Blue Chips and Steel roles earned him Razzie nominations. But I’ve come to praise Shaq, not to bury him.
Yes these movies were bad but Shaq has admitted that 1) acting was something he always wanted to try and 2) studios gave him a big check to do it. How many of you would do something fun, albeit poorly, if someone offered you millions of dollars to try it out? Also, remember he was doing all this while being a full time basketball player. While all the movies were shot during his off-season that didn’t mean he still didn’t have to play basketball. Steel was shot during an off-season that included the 1996 Olympics. The man for three straight years was either traveling for basketball or was on a set shooting a movie. An if that wasn’t enough, in-between the times he wasn’t doing that, he had one more time consuming hobby.
Shaq released three, YES THREE, albums in the mid-90s. 1993’s Shaq Diesel, 1994’s Shaq-Fu Da Return and 1996’s You Can’t Stop the Reign. Say what you want about his flow but the only popular rapper today that is putting out albums almost annually is Drake. And I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is reason to believe that Drake uses ghostwriters. Bit Shaq didn’t just make albums by himself, he recruited some of the biggest names in urban music to collaborate with. A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Jay-Z, Bobby Brown and Mobb Deep all have features on his songs.
And with these collaborators, Shaq actually came out with some quality music. Shaq Diesel made the Billboard charts and went platinum for selling over one million copies. And not only did the fans like Shaq’s music but other respected artists gave him respect too. Listen to “Still Can’t Stop the Reign” the first single from Shaq’s third album “Can’t Stop the Reign.” It’s a really good song. What makes it better is a feature from one of the best rappers ever Notorious BIG. And what makes this song amazing is that Michael Jackson loved the song so much that he took Biggie’s verse and reused it on his Invincible album (long time readers already know I love this album). By 1996, Shaq was a legit, respected rapper. Speaking of 1996…
Think about Shaq’s 1996. He started the year trying to get back the NBA Finals which he lost in the previous year. That means that He was playing basketball everyday until June, when he lost in the 3rd round of the playoffs. Once he was done with NBA basketball, he needed to figure out a way to manage both shooting Kazaam and practicing/playing games with the 1996 USA Olympics Basketball team. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that during that off-season Shaq decided to move from Orlando to Los Angeles, so he needed to deal with all the stresses of relocation. Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention that that whole time, Shaq was working on and wrapping up production on his third studio album that was released in November of that year. 1996 was a ridiculous year for Shaq and I haven’t even mentioned any endorsement obligations he definitely have had.
Support people’s dreams, including yours
At the end of the day, the point of this article isn’t about how amazing Shaq is or how amazing Donald Glover is. The point of all of this is, if you have a passion for something, DO IT. Don’t let your lack of experience or time be an excuse for you not to try. Shaq and ‘Bino never did.
And one last thing. O’Neal and Glover were able to do so many activities because, in part, of their celebrity. While it’s great we support them, there are plenty of people in our own lives that are creating art and other forms of entertainment and expression that we don’t care about nearly as much. Just remember to uplift your friend’s and family’s explorations just as much as we support our Renaissance Men and Women.