DJ Diesel put Houston club-goers into a frenzy Friday night.
“Are you ready, Houston?”
Screams erupt from the crowd. People already pushed close together in the VIP area are sandwiched closer still as some slip under the rope separating the VIP from general admission when security isn’t looking.
“I said ARE YOU READY HOUSTON??”
The loud screams become louder still as fans beg for the show to begin. However, there’s no need to crane your neck. At 7’1”, Shaquille O’Neal dwarfs everyone at his side, making them look like children in comparison. He needs no spotlight, no introduction. A man in the front hands him a tan cowboy hat. Much to Houston’s delight, he puts it on and begins the show.
Although this is Shaq’s (here performing as DJ Diesel) first time DJing in Houston, he is no stranger to Texas. The Big Shamrock is a native to San Antonio, Texas. As a matter of fact, DJ Diesel has attributed the birth of his love for the mixer to a local show he saw as a teen featuring DJ Quik.
However, he wasn’t about to stick to one genre or influence all night. He started by mixing some beats and drops, escalating, hyping the audience into a frenzy before inserting ‘Titanium’ into the mix. People sang along. Those who had the space to dance did so. Right after the chorus, the mix continued.
The set took place at Sekai Day and Night, a Vegas-style nightclub – bombastic and larger-than-life. The security is clean, attentive, and uniform. The hostesses are clad in little black dresses, perpetually smiling and dancing in place while not serving their patrons. Plush couches surround clean tables, some set up arena-style around the stage, while others surround a wading pool outside. The lights dance in the shape of flowers over the still water, sharply contrasted by moving bodies around it.
I quickly noticed the biggest EDM and Dubstep fans seemed to have gathered outside, surrounding the pool where there was space to move. The dancing became fevered and animalistic when DJ Diesel dropped the first chords of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit ‘ (a favorite of his in many sets), the crowd screaming in approval.
Shaq’s greatest strength as a DJ is his diversity in sound and music. His mixing isn’t daring or risky, but that’s not to say it isn’t good. On the contrary, he has a formula down that works well no matter what song or genre is plugged into it. At one point, he even had the club moshing to Super Mario.
Sekai proved itself to be an excellent venue for talent that will bring a party. Wallflowers stand by bars, watching as heavily-colonged men dressed in t-shirts sporting Gucci and Louis Vuitton logos danced with their partners. Things were more erotic in the VIP area overlooking the stage, with women in perfect makeup and silk dresses grinding on their partners. I was amazed at the staff’s efforts, watching them continue to weave through the throngs of people to deliver bottle service all around the club.
People were there to see Shaq, which was clear by the number of modelesque women towering over six feet dressed in Prada, Givenchy (many from just this season), and general couture combined with a number of security details. But there were also many local Houstonians who were regulars in attendance too, clear by the familiar way they were greeted by the staff.
Shaquille O’Neal is a man of many talents. His first claim to fame is with the NBA, but he’s also had a successful career in film and television. On the side, he’s known for his philanthropy, business ventures and academic achievements, earning his Ph.D. from Barry University in 2020. On top of all that, he still found time to pursue his love of music.
Shaq has been playing around with DJing since 1988, learning at a time when you ‘had to be a real DJ,’ memorizing the songs and manually switching between disks and setting at the exact second. But hip-hop stole his heart, and he put the mixer to the side in order to focus on the records to come.
His hip-hop career was no gimmick, with his debut album ‘Shaq Diesel’ going platinum in the United States, reaching #25 on the Billboard 200 and #10 on the hip-hop Billboard chart. He continued to see chart success in the following three studio albums he put out in the coming years.
All throughout his career, Shaq has proven that he can be successful at anything he puts his mind to. We often separate sports from more intellectual affairs because we think brains and brawn don’t often coincide. The truth is that athletes who understand discipline, repetitive practice and adherence to formula will often leave talent that does not practice in the dust. As a DJ, he is formulaic and precise. Certainly not a risk-taker, but far from boring. His method is that of controlled chaos, and he certainly knows how to work a crowd. Houston looks forward to hosting him again.