Nick Cannon Is Hip-Hop’s Modern Day Renaissance Man.
I know people don’t want to admit this. But the 42-year old entertainment mogul has been through it all. He’s thrived through several iterations of music, culture and even technology, riding past the bumps and bruises that would devastate others. Nowadays, he is pouring his talents into his Next Superstar Tour, which stars Symba, 24kGoldn, Justina Valentine, Hitman Holla, JD McCrary, Traetwothree, Klondike Blonde, DW Flame, and POP MONEY.
Beyond that, Mr. Cannon has been the subject of water cooler conversation for quite a while. First of all, there are his 12 blessed babies, which have dominated headlines, comedic fodder and even critical analysis. Then there are more serious matters, such as the Jewish / African American hot topic that sprung out of an interview with Prof. Griff of Public Enemy fame. He talks to Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur about these matters and how they have impacted him.
But most of all, Nick talks about his musical journey. He discusses how he had his earliest starts as a DJ and MC with the legendary likes of Biz Markie, Jazzy Jeff and Outkast. All of these rivers flow into his successes today.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Do you consider yourself… It’s hard for to somebody say, “Yeah, I’m a Renaissance man. Yeah, that’s what I am.” But I do think about you in that fashion. Do you regard yourself as a modern day Renaissance man?
Nick Cannon: Man, I definitely know I’m built different. It’s funny that you say that, because my first company, when I first started producing Wild ‘n Out in early 2000s, the company was called Mr. Renaissance. I definitely toyed with that term for quite some time, but I think that’s really… It’s in all of us, man. It really is. We have the gift of entertainment. We have the gift of music and dance and just the creators making something out of nothing. And when you can tap into that, you kind of had to do it all. You had to be able to be forward-thinking and multifaceted, just to even survive. And hopefully, a little bit of that DNA from the ancestors is what’s been keeping me rocking this whole time.
AllHipHop: Being that this is Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary and we’re looking back at the culture, and you touched on it, you had to do everything, what would you say, for you, Hip-Hop, what has it meant to you? What has it given you?
Nick Cannon: Survival, hope, optimism. Think about what, just in that short span of 50 years, how much generational wealth has been created from our culture, from our struggle. Showing that strength, that resilience to be able to say, “We created something out of nothing and people going to be feeding they families for generations.” Just based off of what Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash and them perfected so long ago. I love the fact that I get to be a little small corner of it, as somebody now who gets to hopefully curate the next generation, and make sure that they understand the history and all of the essential elements that it took to get here. And now we in the “bag era” where everybody’s getting to it. And even though it is commercialized, at least we bringing it back to the community.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Do you think people forget those things that made superstars? I feel like sometimes we look back and we forget that Redman…lets use Redman as an example. He was on this record…well he was a roadie, first of all, before he was anything, he was lifting crates. And then he got on a song, and then another song, and then on EPMD’s album. And then he got a deal, and then… The Month of the Man with Method Man.
Nick Cannon: That’s true. Even Pac was a perfect example of that. Pac was a Digital Underground roadie, and then they gave him a verse on “Same Song”…
Then he had his own situation, the most prolific MC and entertainer of his generation. I think that’s part of the process. That’s the building blocks. That’s one of the reasons that sometimes you don’t see too many superstars today, because they didn’t go through that process. And even myself, man, I was carrying crates for Biz Markie for years in the ’90s, just so I could even just get in the club, ’cause I was a teenager. Jazzy Jeff and Touch of Jazz had me just moving around, doing Mr. Miyagi type of stuff. I was just trying to figure out how to sit up under the master of DJs. It is a schooling process that gets you that accreditation to be able to say, “I am Hip-Hop.”
AllHipHop: Yeah, that’s crazy. I didn’t even know that about you with Biz and Jazzy Jeff.
Nick Cannon: That’s what I was saying, man. I was a DJ from the gate, before Serato from the crate days.
AllHipHop: Right, right. That’s crazy. Okay. Okay. Do you have any particular memory in Hip-Hop or a fond memory? For me, one time I opened for KRS-One and that was the biggest thing ever for me.
Nick Cannon: The night that my career took off, man, it was a very similar situation, man. Me and my rapper [friend], we got an opportunity to open up for OutKast. We were a little teenage high school version of them. It was right when ATLiens came out, their second album. It’s funny, because rocked the stage, they showed love, but the host of that night was Guy T., who had the Phat Tuesday… If you’ve ever seen the Phat Tuesday documentary. That was the night that-
AllHipHop: Why you saying Guy T?
Nick Cannon: Guy Torry. He was Guy T back then.
AllHipHop: Oh, okay, okay.
Nick Cannon: Guy Torry, who’s now a great comedian and started Phat Tuesday, gave me the opportunity. From that show, invited me to Hollywood, and the rest is history.
AllHipHop: Dope, dope, dope. Are you going to act again? I haven’t seen you acting. I always saw you in the spirit of Will Smith, kind of touching everything.
Nick Cannon: I think just my business acumen just took over, and really trying to get to that bag, but I think it’s funny that you say that. I was like, “All right, I’m going to go hard in this space as an entrepreneur/CEO for a few more years, and then I’m going to put that acting hat back on and then focus.” Because that’s something you got to focus on full time. And I feel like now that I’m matured as a man and lived a lot of life, then I can start really doing the roles. ‘Cause also, even as a filmmaker, I’ve directed quite a few films and stuff like that. I want to be able to tell stories for us that really resonate the best way possible. It’s definitely a focus of mine, but again, you got to be focused on it. I’m rocking heavy right now, but give me a few years, I’m going to get back into my leading man bag.
AllHipHop: How are you doing personally, man? Your personal life has played out in the tabloids, I guess, online.
Nick Cannon: Constantly, right?
AllHipHop: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
Nick Cannon: Yeah, it’s love man. I just operate on the highest frequency I’m allowed to, man, and be moving on that 528 hertz at all times, man. I think the way it’s positioned, people are fascinated, but it’s my life. This is how I move. It’s all positive and love.
AllHipHop: Yeah, the fam is good? All the babies and stuff?
Nick Cannon: The whole gang. My 12 constellations, they all rocking.
AllHipHop: That’s what’s up. You recently sang… I had mixed feelings. You sang, “Can You Stand The Rain” and I was like, “Damn, I had mixed feelings” like, “Man, that’s a classic record.” You know what I’m saying?
Nick Cannon: Absolutely. If you think I actually… The key that it was in, I actually threw in… The whole thing, I threw in some Keith Sweat, some SWB, but really, what that purpose was is I could sit down at the piano and sing or play anything. And that’s the thing where people always… At home, we trying to bolster, do none of that, but I’m not impressed when somebody can rhyme some words together. What I impresses me is real musicianship, and people who have a ear for music and really know how to get down. I came up in a church, so it’s one of the…
Again to that thing, I never wanted to be a R & B singer, but I could sit down…give me any instrument and I’ll make it work. I was in my studio messing around, and I think even probably what I’ll start doing, I’ll probably start going live and just… Because that’s just what I was on. I think I might have even been in my feelings a little bit, just based off singing that.
AllHipHop: You got to be [emotional], singing that song, right?
Nick Cannon: But yeah, it was one of those things that I just do from time to time. We did a session like that with Kierra Sheard, where we sang Fred Hammond’s “No Weapon.” I think, again, because I do so many things and people be in my personal business and stuff so much, people actually forget that I’m actually talented. Sometimes I got to pull the keys out or the guitar out and just… even for my own spirit, just to let you know that, “No, I still got it.”
AllHipHop: Yeah, because when I used to watch your show, I used to look really hard at the end when you would play [the piano], and I’m like, “Is he really playing that?”
Nick Cannon: And I understand why people… And I used to go live when we were playing in the studio a lot too, but where people just really just…I don’t know if they just don’t want to give me that. I do it. Same thing with the DJing. When I DJ, I see a lot of people pull up and they be like, “Are you really doing that?” It’s like, “Yeah, I’m really about this. I’m really for the culture.” Again, I guess it’s fascinating. I understand the intrigue.
AllHipHop: I wanted to ask you a little bit of a deeper question. In the last few years, the Jewish-Black issue has been ignited on several fronts, from Kanye to Kyrie, and even yourself. I don’t know if there’s a question or more of a comment. Your thoughts on it, now that some time has asked. Have you learned anything? Have things changed?
Nick Cannon: Man, I’m going to be super honest with you, man. That process was a growth moment for me, on so many levels as a man. And I even now, we have a podcast, myself and the CEO of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt, called “Solutions: To Hate or Not To Hate.” And it’s really talking about the equation of our two communities from two different perspectives. We voice our side, or the perspective as a Black man, and then he voices his side from a Jewish man. Just even that alone is helpful and educational for both communities. And again, because that’s the thing, we can sit up here and be enraged, but if we don’t engage, what are we really doing, if we can’t even learn from one another? And clearly, we all know the issues, we all know the tropes, we all know the stereotypes.
Again, I’m no longer about just talk. We can sit out on every podcast and talk about what we believe and who we are, but once the podcast go off, don’t nothing happen, what did you really do? And that’s one of the reasons, if I’m really about that generational wealth, that’s why I created Future Superstars. If I’m really about connecting with a community and finding solutions, that’s why we created that podcast. I’m really putting my money where my mouth is and my energy to where my heart is. To me, that situation says, “All right, I’m done talking. Everybody talk. Let’s figure it out, let’s solve it. What’s the problem?” The next people who say something in front of a microphone can have an understanding of what it is, so they don’t stumble and fumble and have to lose opportunities or get so-called canceled and all of that stuff on the next go around. Really, it’s just about bringing people closer together. Ultimately, nobody’s monolithic, but we’re all one organism that allows this thing to keep pumping.
AllHipHop: It’s interesting, with the way the algorithm works, it seems like more and more talk is what people want to do. They want to monetize the drama, as opposed to really finding solutions. That’s how I see it.
Nick Cannon: Yeah, it’s that low frequency, man. It’s easy to hear the low frequency. Because you don’t got to do much, and a negative begets a negative. But if you really trying to elevate, you got to put some effort behind that. I’m not mad at it. I know how to play the game, just like the best of them, but if I’m really at the position in my life and where I’m at, I really got to create solutions and opportunities for others.
AllHipHop: Were you ever scared? Because I was scared for you. I’m not going to lie. I was highly concerned. I sent you a DM at that point, just sending my prayers. And just knowing your spirit and everything, you’re very, [inaudible 00:20:12]-.
Nick Cannon: No, I wasn’t scared, because I knew where my heart was. I knew where my heart is. They trying to test me, so let me turn it into a testimony. Let me show you what I’m really built of. And especially, luckily, like I said, I’ve been blessed enough to where I can stand firm on what’s mine for what… Because I don’t necessarily have to make decisions based off of money. I could walk away from anything, and I have multiple times. It’s been shown. I think being able to be in a power position like that, it’s my duty to speak up when I need to speak up. But it’s also my duty to be wise and to be kind and to operate out of love.