Nick Cannon Biography
Already recognized as an ‘industry chameleon,’ Cannon has kept the slashes between monikers, but also strategically inhabits a disciplined business model that belies his age – a practice he slyly refers to as the ‘difference’ between being a mogul-in-the-making and a wannabe on-the-make. And he’d be the first to admit he’s seen one too many of the latter himself. “I approach everything I do with my own smell test: Is this real? Is it something worth devoting the talent and energies of yourself and the people supporting you, or is it ‘snatching’ at ‘real’ just because you have the momentum to make things happen.” he says. “And I always try to do my homework. I respect the Jay-Z’s and Russell Simmons’ of the world so much, because they knew a very important part of their success, however spontaneous, was using every resource available to them as their stature grew. And they respected those who came before them. When someone asks me what business role models I look up to I always mention true groundbreakers like Bill Cosby and Quincy Jones, who made a true mark in the culture and were able to attack every project from a foundation of knowledge. They were bursting with inspiration for each idea and not just because they were ‘hot’ and it was handed to them.”
Such observations speak well for Cannon’s burgeoning executive acumen, affirming that entertainment tomes like People Magazine are right to cite him as one of the Top Ten Most Successful Young People In Hollywood, with Black Enterprise magazine also recognizing the actor/musician/executive’s entrepreneurial skill sets, placing him on the cover of their special issue; 40 Under 40. The young star is humbled by all the praise, but even comparisons to contemporary cultural icons (and oft-cited mentor) like hip hop spawned superstar Will Smith can’t dent Cannon’s self-induced ethic of prove-yourself-first. “I love Will Smith. I’m flattered to even be mentioned in the same breath as him but I know it’s important for my growth to not try and be the next anybody. Everyday I wake up I remind myself my mission is to be the first and the best Nick Cannon.”
A quick checklist of recent projects finds the tireless Cannon (‘I swear I have ADD’ he jokes) hitting his goals on all cylinders. Creator, Director, Host and the creative force behind the #1 rated show in cable television, the sketch-inspired MTV’s Nick Cannon Presents Wild’n Out, he’s also starring in three soon-to-be-released movies, the Emilio Estevez directed RFK assassination pic Bobby, the highly anticipated animated film Monster House, and the gritty indie release Weapons, as well as writing his own soon-to-be produced boxing venture.
He’s also the purveyor of his own multi-million dollar clothing line, PNB Nation, and most recently signed a much heralded deal with Motown Records to launch Can I Ball Records, aligning with storied executive and President of Motown, Sylvia Rhone, to deliver an arsenal of new artists, as well as his own albums. “Sylvia has been such a mover and shaker in the industry, she defines my idea of what a great executive should be,” says Cannon. “Working with her, and being part of the great Motown legacy is like a dream come true.”
Cannon is inaugurating the much anticipated imprint with his own solo release, (his second album to-date) called Stages, a title chosen to reflect the multi-layered brush strokes the artist/executive applies to album and career. “Kanye West produced a track for me on the album (the up tempo ‘My Wife’) and he was so influential in my overall philosophy towards the album, and how I can relate to the audience out there in everything that I do,” says Cannon. “He convinced me an album is a great vehicle for you to reach out to your audience and give them an opportunity to get to know you. I wanted to provide a glimpse of every stage of my life. His advice to me was to always treat that connection with the utmost integrity, in a business sense too. Stages to me represents the various stages it took to get here, the performance stage, the stages of your career, and now this new stage of controlling my business platforms so that my growth reflects every direction that I want to go in.”
It’s also indicative of Cannon’s strategic compass that he seldom moves forward without looking back, reflecting on the many small and giant steps it took to achieve his incredible accomplishments in such a short span of time. A California native, he moved to North Carolina when he was 11, refining his earliest comic sensibilities by performing for his father’s public access ministry on a local Charlotte TV station. “My dad knew I had a feel for mimicry, for imitations, styling myself after Arsenio and the Living Color show, so he let me do little skits on his public access show. I like to say I learned my chops making Jesus jokes.” The young Cannon would even ‘open’ for his dad in church, eventually moving back to California at age 13, where he began exploring the comedy club circuit. “It’s pretty funny when I think about it now,” he reminisces. “There I was an 13-14 year old kid making jokes about roaches and stuff to an audience three times as old as me.”
His first big break came at the famed Comedy Store when he was 15, and a subsequent breakthrough role 3 years later on the hit Nickelodeon series All That, cementing his rep as a rising star with an uncanny business sense. Before long, Cannon was holding down his own starring vehicle on the cable network, the award winning Nick Cannon show, directing and producing the lively showcase, as well. The acclaim Cannon received would eventually lead to his 2002 breakout movie, Drumline, and other key movie roles, including 2003’s Love Don’t Cost A Thing. That same year Cannon released his debut solo album, collaborating with an in-demand lineup of superstars on his and other projects, including R. Kelly, Lil Romeo and B2K.
The versatile star would also reveal another facet of his business savvy by shoring up the weapons in his own behind-the-scenes musical arsenal, signing a new management deal with hip hop impresario Michael ‘Blue’ Williams, President and CEO of Family Tree Entertainment, recognized as one of the key forces behind Grammy winning, multi-platinum group Outkast’s phenomenal success. It’s a reflection of Cannon’s confidence and willingness to keep learning that he seeks out industry stalwarts such as Rhone and Williams to help him map out his next series of moves in the volatile music industry.
“Hey don’t get me wrong I like to have a good time,” he says. “But part of maintaining success is knowing what your purpose is. That’s the way I was raised and it’s the way I approach my business. Everyone has a role to play when it comes to achieving lasting success. Longevity is crucial to me, and I plan on being here for awhile, which is why my motto is, yeah, just do it, but always stay focused while you’re doing it.”