Shaquille O’Neal may be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but he also knows how to throw down within the worlds of dubstep and bass music as DIESEL. His hits include “Bang Your Head,” “WARFARE” and “NO FEAR,” all of which feature skull-shattering drops and hard-hitting bass, making them anthemic bangers that set the dancefloor on fire. The 7′ 1″ giant has even been known to get in the crowd and enter the moshpit with his fans, showing how much the power of dance music means to him.
“To me, bass music is a relief,” he says. “It is an outlet that allows Shaquille O’Neal to be someone other than a basketball player. Every time I hear a drop hit or a crowd go nuts, it takes me back to Game 7 championship energy. Nothing has been able to do that for me except bass music. I crave it.”
The tastemaker has proved himself in the world of bass music by gracing the stages of Lost Lands, Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, Lollapalooza, Electric Zoo, Forbidden Kingdom and Beyond Wonderland. In addition, O’Neal hosts Shaq’s Fun House, an annual event held in the same city as the Super Bowl on the Friday before the game. He also boasts a Las Vegas residency at the Wynn (XS Nightclub and Encore Beach Club). Now, the artist takes it one step forward with his own bass music festival, Shaq’s Bass All Stars Festival.
“Since the creation of DIESEL, I have always wanted to create my own mega bass festival—a true event for the culture,” O’Neal says. “I was already throwing my annual Super Bowl party, Shaq’s Fun House, but I needed something for the headbangers—something that DIESEL could get behind.”
The two-stage event is slated to take place on September 16 at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth, Texas. The festival features an impressive 14-artist lineup including Alison Wonderland, Kai Wachi, Sullivan King, Crankdat, LΛYZ and, of course, O’Neal himself. Some of the acts performing were featured on his debut album, GORILLA WARFARE, which dropped on August 18. The talent ranges from top-tier artists to up-and-comers, with O’Neal adding, “I love supporting the next generation of all-stars.”
In addition to music, the festival will feature a Ferris wheel and a food truck village. The two stages are set to have “Shaq-sized production,” which includes LED walls, a mega sound system, pyrotechnics, smoke machines and more—all necessary as the bass music scene is known for its production, particularly seen with artists like Excision.
When asked about his upcoming set for the festival, the sound designer says: “It’s going to be different. I don’t want to say too much here, but just know this won’t be your normal DIESEL set. It will be all-new music, all-new edits, maybe a few special guests and, of course, a whole lot of flames. I love flames. It goes without saying, but the DIESEL will be joining all of you in the mosh pit, so beware. It will be my hardest headbanging set yet.”
Shaq’s Bass All Stars Festival is produced by Medium Rare and Disco Donnie Presents. Disco Donnie Presents produces over 1,000 club events, arena shows and outdoor festivals each year, making it one of the biggest production companies within the world of dance music. Medium Rare partners with athletes, celebrities and brands to build media and entertainment properties, which include Shaq’s Fun House, Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Tailgate, Gronk Beach, Dave Portnoy’s One Bite Pizza Festival, Black Entrepreneurs Day and Sports Illustrated The Party. Medium Rare, co-founded by Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman, works at the intersection of sports and entertainment, making it ideal for positioning O’Neal to transition into the world of dance music. He was previously in the world of rap music when he dropped his first rap album, Shaq Diesel.
“What we saw really quickly after working for companies like Live Nation and SFX Entertainment, when you attach somebody like Shaquille O’Neal—an icon, in this case, a top five all-time NBA player—to the event, it really changes the entire trajectory in every way of the festival, from fan engagement [to] ticket selling, media purview and especially sponsorship,” Silberzweig says. “Sports and entertainment are really the biggest fuel of the [United] States. When you combine them, that’s when I think there’s a lot of magic and opportunity, and that’s what we really focus on.”
According to Logan Bohbot, director at Medium Rare representing O’Neal and GORDO, the former basketball icon came to them saying he wanted his own festival, he wanted it to be in Texas and he wanted some of his favorite acts on it. Not only is O’Neal hands-on with the lineup, but he is also heavily involved with the production side. Silberzweig says O’Neal will even text them about lasers, fireworks and smoke machines he sees at other events that he wants to be part of Shaq’s Bass All Stars Festival. “It was really a matter of our team coming together to find the best way to make [the festival] happen,” Bohbot adds.
O’Neal’s love for electronic, hip-hop and other genres of music began at the age of 14, with him cutting his neighbors’ grass, walking dogs and scraping together any cash he could until he saved up $200 to buy his first set of turntables at a local pawn shop. He says he first experienced dance culture in 2015 when he attended TomorrowWorld in Georgia and connected with Silberzweig and Richman, who were working the festival as they were some of the key members who helped bring Belgium’s Tomorrowland to the US as TomorrowWorld. Silberzweig says O’Neal was a guest at the festival, and they toured him around the event. This initial contact with Medium Rare led the former basketball maven to be booked for Tomorrowland the following year, Silberzweig says. Since then, the Medium Rare partners have started Shaq’s Fun House, Shaq vs. Gronk and now Shaq’s Bass All Stars Festival.
O’Neal proves to be more than just a celebrity deejay, which many people view him as. Bohbot says the basketball heavyweight champion works on music and researches, finds new tunes and experiments with sounds while he’s on planes, diving deeper into the dance music culture to see what his sound is. Bohbot adds that O’Neal is approachable despite his intimidating stature: He is welcoming on Twitter and encourages people in the green room to sit down and have a conversation with him. “He calls himself the dubstep dad for a reason,” Bohbot says.
As for the future of bass music, O’Neal thinks an artist’s production value will become more significant to their ability to sell tickets. He cites Subtronics and Excision as acts “spending insane amounts of money on creating a next-level experience for their fans.” He says these elements take fans to a place that’s beyond just watching a set. He adds that he believes the genre hasn’t reached its full potential yet.
“I spend so much time looking into the next generation of bass music and man, there is so much unrecognized talent out there online,” he says. “One day, when they all reach the public eye, the scene is going to explode.”