Nick Cannon may be a funny guy, but when it comes to his business, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. He’s arguably the hardest working man in show biz. With the successful return of his MTV2 brainchild, Wild ‘N Out (which brought the network to record-breaking ratings), an upcoming film he’s directed, and the resurrection of Soul Train, which is owned by his company, N’Credible Entertainment, it’s hard to argue otherwise—not to mention he’s the host of America’s Got Talent and chairman of TeenNick. To say the least, Cannon’s a boss in every sense of the word.
Some even call him the Black Ryan Seacrest, but if you let Cannon tell it, it’s the other way around. “Ryan Seacrest is the White Nick Cannon,” he jokes. Nonetheless, Cannon’s rise in the industry is laudable, considering he got his start as the funny teen on Nickelodeon’s All That way back in the 1990s. From rap to film, to even marrying an icon like Mariah Carey, there’s nothing he hasn’t quite done.
Cannon recently chatted it up with XXL about his business savvy and what’s all in store for the young media mogul. Check it out.
XXL: The show’s return helped bring MTV2 to record-breaking ratings. How does it all feel, and were you the least surprised?
NC: It was confirmation. It was one of those things where the show was back by popular demand, because people were asking me to bring it back. But there were some people were like is it going to be better than the first time, don’t mess it up. So for people to love it even more the second time around is like Ok, they were yearning for this and we gave them what they wanted. I love it when a plan comes together.
XXL: The show particularly did well among viewers between the ages 18-34, why do you think Wild ’N Out resonated so much with young viewers?
NC: Really it’s that fast-paced type of entertainment more than anything. I think based off of the way the industry is now, and everything with social media and technology, people want their content fast, and Wild ‘N Out has always been that type of format to where you don’t get bored. It’s constant entertainment; you have several different comedians at one time. If one person’s not your favorite, someone else might be. It’s one of those things where you create social conversation, and the fact that we bridge hip-hop and comedy all in one thing. We’re probably one of the firsts to do that.
XXL: Wild ’N Out is sort of a vehicle for keeping old-school hip-hop culture alive. Would you say the show is helping to introduce a younger audience to hip-hop?
NC: Not even just the younger audience. Even audiences that may not be true fans of hip-hop. I get a lot of emails and tweets from people around the world that say Wild ‘N Out taught them about battle rapping and all of type of stuff. It’s crazy to me. Obviously it’s a part of my culture, but for a lot of people, when they think about hip-hop they think about the people who are selling the most records, but they don’t understand that there are so many levels to the culture. Being able to even stay true to what hip-hop is about…that’s why I love giving new artists and people who are underground an opportunity on Wild ‘N Out.
XXL: Are there any new additions or changes you plan to bring to the next season of Wild ‘N Out?
NC: I’m getting more and more excited about the multiple platforms that the Wild ‘N Out brand is going to grow to. We’re about to release a Wild ‘N Out compilation soundtrack, kind of like how Lyricist Lounge used to be. This is going to be our first one, but for each season, whoever is a part of that show is going to be a part of the soundtrack, giving you MCs and a lot of the rappers on the show an opportunity to display their talents in a real way. My man DJ Premiere is producing a lot of the stuff for that. That’s going to be big. We’re also doing a Wild ‘N Out board game, and a comedy club.
XXL: You’re also a star on BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood. How is the experience working with Kevin and the guys on the show?
NC: It’s fun to be able to have fun with your friends, and try to make light of each other and get paid to do it. It’s a good time. We make fun of our lives. It started off as a sketch and it turned into a real show.
XXL: People sometimes refer to you as the Black Ryan Seacrest. How does such a comparison make you feel?
NC: I do more than Ryan Seacrest (laughs). Ryan Seacrest is the White Nick Cannon. I joke with Ryan about it all the time. It’s funny because I’ve been called so many things. When I was 17, I was the next Will Smith. When I was acting, I was the future Denzel [Washington] or the new Bill Cosby. Every year they give me a new title. If you’re talking about the type of money these cats are making in the business, we definitely have some similarities. I take it all as a compliment if someone is comparing to somebody successful. Hey, bring it on. They can be calling me a lot worse.
XXL: Did you always have an entrepreneurial mindset, or did something or someone influence your business acumen?
NC: I grew up around hustlers. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and that’s kind of what I’ve been taught. I had a lot of people lead by example in various fields. But to be able to get into the entertainment game, I call myself an uninvited guest—especially when it comes to hip-hop. The industry didn’t want me in it, but I worked my way so hard, just constantly staying on top of my game. That in itself has garnered respect at the end of the day. People don’t have to like me, but they’re definitely going to respect me and the moves that I’m making.
XXL: So in addition to being a businessman, you’re also a family man. How do you balance it all, and does it ever get too overwhelming?
NC: It’s never overwhelming because family is always our number one priority. You never balance family. Family is everything. Family is the reason why we do what we do, and everything else you kind of figure out how to juggle other things, but family is first and foremost my foundation.
XXL: Obviously we know you as a funny man. But has that brand ever prevented you from being taken seriously as a businessman in the industry?
NC: I think it has at times, but hurdles are made to jump over. I was never really concerned about it. As long as I get in the room, I know I can change the perception. Once you sit down with me you see that I’m intelligent and a great entrepreneur. My jokes and my smile get me in the room, so I’m never going to downplay that. Me being a likable guy is the reason why I’m here today.
XXL: In what ways has Mariah inspired or influenced any of your business decisions, if at all?
NC: She’s one of the hardest working person I’ve ever met. People don’t even see half of what goes into her making an album, her taking care of her voice as an instrument, being mom to her being the empire that she is; everything from her fragrances, her producing and writing. She inspires me daily to keep my grind up, especially as someone who has accomplished literally everything you can accomplish as a performer and entertainer. To still see how hungry she is and her drive is inspiring. If she’s still waking up 5 a.m. trying to get it, then I better. I don’t have Grammy’s and platinum plaques lining all over the walls of the house. So for her to do that and keep grinding like that is crazy.
XXL: Are there any other business ventures you’ve taken up that maybe we don’t know about? What’s coming down the pipeline? Is there anything we can expect from Nick Cannon in media, television or film?
NC: One of the most things I’m excited about is bringing back Soul Train. I own Soul Train now, and I’m producing and hosting it. We’re bringing it to network television. That means so much to our culture, so to have it live on under my reign is a blessing and a great opportunity. We were casting and it blew me away. I can’t wait to start shooting it in January.
I also just directed a film, with myself, Kevin Hart, Mike Epps, Katt Williams, George Lopez and a bunch of people. That’s going to be crazy. We got a lot of stuff to jump on to take over 2014.