Over the weekend, Serena Williams might have been in Spain playing tennis, but she was getting more attention in the blogosphere for seventy seconds of a leaked rap song she made. The results sound like an amateurish impression of a collaboration between Missy Eliot and the Neptunes. The opening line sort of sums it up: "I ball hard, no tennis racket/I can see these haters through my Gucci glasses."
The leaked track raises a lot more questions than it answers. Is there a mixtape in the works? Did she write those bars herself? Is this a publicity stunt? Whatever the case, Williams is just another example of a successful athlete taking an ill-conceived turn at being a musician. Just because someone is good at sports doesn't mean they're ready to rock a stage.
There's been a surprising number of athletes who've dabbled in music -- John McEnroe playing guitar in the Johnny Smyth Band after his divorce, or Kobe Bryant's unreleased rap album Visions, for example -- and there are quite a few athlete-made albums that actually get released. While we all sit around and wonder whether some of Serena's championship money is going to fund her burgeoning rap career, take a moment to reflect on some of the worst albums made by athletes.
5. Shaquille O'Neal - Shaq Diesel
Shaq might've had the most eclectic off-the-court career of any player since Michael Jordan. He had a tryst with professional wrestling, starred in a couple movies and put out some rap albums. His 1993 debut, Shaq Diesel, which was the followup to his cameo in the Fu-Schnickens song "What's Up Doc (Can We Rock?)," was less stellar than his performance for the Magic that year, despite all-star production help from folks like Erik Sermon. The upside is that the album -- just like Shaq himself -- is still head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
4. Roy Jones Jr. - Round One: The Album
Roy Jones Jr.'s 2002 album Round One: The Album was far from a critical knockout, including tunes like "Who Wanna Get Knocked Out" and "You Damn Right." The production style is a derivative of turn-of-the-millenium hits by DMX, but the Jones can't quite bark like the Ruff Ryders' big dog. The problem with being a boxing champ is that there are very few people who will tell you no, for fear of taking a right hook to the chin -- but someone should definitely have put the brakes on this vanity project.
3. Muhammad Ali - Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay
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What do you do when you're the greatest heavyweight champion of the world? Focus your energy on an album that battles the scourge of poor dental hygiene, of course. This rare gem from 1976 features Ali alongside a group of kids and some celebrity special guests in what amounts to a spoken-word album with a funky backing track. Featuring contributions from Frank Sinatra, Richie Havens and Howard Cosell, the best tune on here is the one where Ali takes credit for -- and/or bemoans being blamed for -- putting a crack in the Liberty Bell, among other historical feats. The whole thing is pretty surreal.
2. Macho Man Randy Savage - Be A Man
By 2003, Macho Man Randy Savage was better known for endorsing Slim Jims and making a cameo in the first Spider-man movie than he was for wrestling, but that doesn't mean he'd forgotten about his old rivalry with Hulk Hogan. There are fourteen songs on his debut album, Be a Man, but the only one that matters is the title track, a dis song egging the Hulkamaniac out of retirement for one last bout. Over a beat that sounds like a watered-down Casio keyboard interpretation of Dr. Dre's hits from the period, Savage (or his ghostwriter) tosses out some scathing insults while telling the Hulk to "be a man." This is definitely one of the best-worst athlete albums of all time.
1. Deion Sanders - Prime Time
It's a good thing that Deion Sanders was able to parlay his personality into a job as a commentator, because if he hadn't, music was not going to be a viable career choice after he left the gridiron. Sanders's 1994 record, Prime Time, is really bad -- and you only need to get a taste of the single, "Must Be the Money" to know that all the folks surrounding Deion aren't there for his singing ability. His voice is flat, and he sings out of the side of his mouth -- if only there'd been AutoTune in '94 -- as he regales listeners with descriptions of his gator shoes and MC Hammer-esque pool-party formalwear. This record has no redeeming qualities other than to serve as a lesson for similarly wealthy athletes fostering cults of personality to stay the hell out of the recording studio.
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