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"First time I heard of Biggie Smalls was when he said my name in a rap," O'Neal said. "He said, 'I'm slammin' brothers like Shaquille it is real,' and instantly I became a fan."
Both 22 at the time and making waves in their respective entertainment lanes, they became fast friends taking their relationship to wax, collaborating on the song 'You Can't Stop the Reign' off O'Neal's 1996 album of the same name. "My concept was to always rap with my favorite rappers, so I put out a call to him and I asked to do a song with me. He came back right away and said "yes."
Watch Shaq's ' You Can't Stop the Reign'
Sean "Diddy" Combs, who built his Bad Boy brand with Biggie, and produced several of his records, revealed that had the rapper not admired O'Neal, the collaboration would not have happened. "Biggie wouldn't really do a record with anybody he didn't really respect," Diddy said. "He wouldn't do something just to be nice. Shaq is a beast. Go hard or go home -- and he really embodied that. Biggie paid respect by shouting him out."
O'Neal was later traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers but maintained his relationship with Biggie, leading up to his death in 1997. Ironically, Biggie invited O'Neal out on the night of his death, but he was unable to make it when his head of security "Uncle" Jerome Crawford, was unable to get past security in time to make it to the party. "I was on my way. I was dressed," he explained. "Usually Uncle Jerome will just come up, but I guess he tried to call and the front desk wouldn't let him through. I just fell asleep. I woke up about 4 o'clock from a call from my mother. She said 'Did you go to the party?' I'm like, 'No, what are you talking about?' She said, 'You know, your friend was shot and killed.' And I was like, 'What?' So then I hung up with her and called some people and they told me what had happened."
Rapper Lil' Cease, who was in the car at the time of Biggie's death believed that had O'Neal made it to the party, the night would have ended differently. "I think that would have changed things," he said. "If Shaq would have said 'You know what, I'mma come with y'all.' I'm sure him and B.I.G. would have rolled together, because that's the type of person B.I.G. was. I'm sure Shaq would have had security and I'm sure B.I.G. would have had enough security to come with him that day to make sure Shaq was alright. So I definitely think if Shaq would have been there, it definitely would have changed, definitely would have changed."
Born Christopher Wallace, Biggie was shot leaving an after party for the Soul Train Music Awards on March 9, 1997. He was later pronounced dead at nearby Cedar-Sinai Hospital. His death was believed to be a retaliation for the shooting death of Tupac Shakur, whom he was embroiled in a verbal beef that spilled into the mainstream media, causing a separation between East and West Coast hip-hop. Both murders remain unsolved.