Nick Cannon: Live and Direct

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f you asked a friend about Nick Cannon a year or so ago, you might have heard the words “nice guy,” “Nickelodeon,” and “the second coming of Will Smith.” Ask about Nick now, and a lot more things come to mind. He’s got the Number One rated show on cable with his brainchild comedy hit, MTV’s Wild’N Out, a flurry of upcoming movies, a new album on the way, a clothing line and a youth foundation. He directs, produces, emcees, writes, acts – and on top of all that he’s heading up every aspect of his own record label, Can I Ball Records.

AllHipHop.com nabbed the multi-talented CEO on one of his very hectic days to discuss the pros – without too many cons these days – of being Nick Cannon.

AllHipHop.com: Obviously, you’ve addressed the comparisons to Will Smith in the media, and you get asked every day about [your break-up with] Christina Milian. Do you feel over the years that you’ve had any unreasonable pressure from your fans or from the media to be this superpower good guy all the time?

Nick Cannon: A little bit, but I’ve grown content with it. I never set out to be a role model, I’d rather call it a real model. I’m just a real dude. A role is something that you play and put up a front, but I’m a real cat. So I’m gonna do some things that people are gonna really be impressed by and really think, “Wow he’s a good example.” But I’m not gonna always say or do what everybody thinks is the right thing, I’m gonna just do me. A lot of times, based on my morals and the way that I was raised, it happens to be a good example for young people out there. So I know that people are looking at me, but that doesn’t make me want to play a role – or I don’t feel like I’m in a position where I have to be a certain way. You’re not gonna agree with everything that I do, but you’re definitely gonna say that I achieved what I wanted to achieve.

AllHipHop.com: You went from doing stand-up into TV, then to movies, and now you’re back on TV again. What have you taken from your early days on TV and your film experience into your show, Wild’N Out?

Nick Cannon: It’s just a different situation, because the first job I had in TV was as a staff writer at 17. I was the youngest staff writer in television, I wrote for a couple of shows on Nickelodeon as well as the WB. That’s when I got the first taste of behind the scenes work. But this time around, I’m focused on actually running the show, me being in front of the camera is something extra this time. It’s not like that’s my main focus, that’s not my bread and butter this time.

AllHipHop.com: With Wild’N Out, In the beginning you were a little nervous about what the reaction would be, or were you confident that people would finally catch on to it?

Nick Cannon: I didn’t really care. [laughs] When I first did the show, I used my own money. I shot and produced it, and I didn’t even have a plan for it. I just did it because it was like a hobby to me. It was just something fun, it was something I wanted to have – me and my friends just wilding out. I sold it to MTV and I was shocked that they ordered so many episodes and put more money into it. Then it was just like they were paying me money to have fun. Based on the MTV audience, they always get good ratings regardless of what programming they have on. The same number of people are watching, so it’s a safe haven where they give me the freedom to do what I want. The fact that it ended up becoming the Number One show in cable is crazy to me because I didn’t expect that type of success. I was just wanting to have a good time and introduce my comedic friends to the world. I was actually kind of hoping for a cult following type of situation. I wasn’t really trying to jump out of the box with a huge successful show, I was just doing it for the people who enjoyed the same style of comedy and same sense of humor that I had. But it’s all great that it did do that.

AllHipHop.com: Talk to us a little bit about your label situation over at Motown.

Nick Cannon: The label is called Can I Ball Records. It’s pretty much me looking up to the Jay-Z’s and Biggie’s saying, “Can I ball? Can I get in? I do the same things y’all do’ It’s just me trying to finally get in my lane.” I’ve always been a producer – people didn’t know that I produce records, that I’ve been the music supervisor on my show, that I produce for other artists. It’s cool to be able to have your own lane, and this time around not really have an A&R on my project and be able to do everything I wanted to do myself. I oversee marketing and everything from promotions, which is cool because I do that in film and television as well. I’ve had my film and television company for almost five years now, so that’s the right thing to do to bring it all together and make this multimedia production company with Can I Ball Records being a element of it.

AllHipHop.com: You have a video out with your first artist. Tell us about his project. Nick Cannon: Yeah, Izzy. He’s sick. He’s this kid I met when he was 16-years-old. He jumped on my tour bus wanting to battle me. [laughs] He’s real grimy, he was a kid from Southeast DC, and I had never seen anybody so hungry and so serious. He’s extremely talented, but I was more shocked by how serious he was about what he was doing. The kid was making thousands of dollars a month selling mixtapes of himself. I respected his hustle, I told him finish school and I’d fly him out to [see about starting] working with him. I did that, and when he got the opportunity we got it poppin’.

AllHipHop.com: Not too long ago you purchased the PNB Nation clothing line, and you’ve been developing that. What are your plans in the next year for the clothing line?

Nick Cannon: This year we’re just focusing on the premium line and getting the denim game up. Everybody knows I’m like a denim head, I’m a enthusiast when it comes to that. I always gotta try to have the flyest jeans and stuff, so I figured I might as well purchase PNB and focus on the type of jeans that I like to wear. We’re making a certain amount of custom pairs, only distributing them to the tastemakers and making sure they’re available in boutique stores before we go mass market with it. I really want to build the brand back up, because it’s had so much credibility over the years and I’ve been such a fan. I don’t want to lose any of that, I just want to put the urban luxury style on it. That’s the only thing I think was missing where people outside of the Hip-Hop community could be introduced to it. I’m trying to hit Milan up the next Fashion Week – I’m feeling this fashion thing.

AllHipHop.com: Aren’t you working on another new movie too?

Nick Cannon: A few movies – I just left Madrid shooting this movie with David Beckham, it’s a soccer movie. That was the last thing that I did, I actually stopped in the middle of it because I go back to shooting in June at the World Cup. I did an animated film that comes out in July called Monster House with Kevin James. I did an independent film with the same director who did Bomb The System – that was at Sundance last year called, Weapons. It’s a real dark independent film. I did a movie called Bobby with Anthony Hopkins and Sharon Stone.

AllHipHop.com: What was it like working with Anthony Hopkins?

Nick Cannon: It was crazy, being on set with “Hannibal Lechter.” I remember doing this scene where I was crying and throwing stuff, he came up to me like, “That was an amazing job.” I was like, “Wow, Anthony Hopkins told me I did a great job.”

AllHipHop.com: What about Sharon Stone? What was it like working with her?

Nick Cannon: Sharon Stone is funny, she’s cool. She’s a regular person, she walks around and talks to everybody, being friendly.

AllHipHop.com: I’m sure it’s kind of surreal to you at times because you’ve worked your way up to this superstardom range where you’re recognized everywhere. Is there ever a point where you pinch yourself and go, “I can’t believe I’m standing here on this set doing this?”

Nick Cannon: Not really – not ‘til after the set. The majority of the time, I’m so focused that I’m just there to get the job done and try to move onto the next stage. Sometimes I sit back afterwards like, “Man this is amazing.” You go somewhere and you see billboards in Times Square for Wild’N Out, I remember sitting around sketching and drawing what I wanted the logo to look like. Now it’s in Times Square 20 feet high, that’s crazy.

AllHipHop.com: You’re working on your new album right now. Considering that your first album did well and you’ve definitely built a lot more of a reputation for yourself as an artist, what do you feel like this time around you focus is? Do you have a plan similar to your last album or are you going in different directions?

Nick Cannon: Just showing the growth as an artist, as a man and as a businessman. I didn’t try to reinvent the wheel or anything like that. I worked with Kanye, he’s the only other producer on my album besides myself. The advice he gave me was to make sure it’s really something that’s a reflection of me, and that I’m talking about me. Nobody wants to hear about anything else, they want to hear about my story. I was trying to put my story down.

AllHipHop.com: How do you find time in your day to do all of these things?

Nick Cannon: I don’t sleep. [laughs] No sleeping plus [Attention Deficit Disorder] will get you a long way.

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