Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon Will Talk About Anything

Playboy visits the star on the raucous 'Wild 'N Out' set to discuss fame, his past—and sex music

Courtesy: Nick Cannon

It's about five minutes into my interview with Nick Cannon. The star is slouched and relaxed on the couch next to me in a room backstage at Atlanta’s Center Stage Theater—wearing the trademark Wild ‘N Out black and red that are emblazoned on the show’s logo and also decorate the green room—when he mentions, “We’ll talk about anything. There’s nothing that’s off-limits.” He's referring to how the comedians on the now-12th season of the MTV improv show refuse to shy from any area of discussion. (This proves true just an hour later as I watch from the VIP bleachers as cast members hilariously tear each other apart during a sketch called “Eat That Ass Up.”) 

But as soon as he says this, my mind immediately goes to the conversation I’d had earlier that day as his publicist went about politely preparing me for our interview before quickly punctuating our polite chat with a quick “No questions on Mariah.” Then my mind went to yet another moment, a little bit after that, when one of the castmates was going off about how if someone wanted to quit the show, they should just go ahead and do it. I’d been sitting backstage for a while at that point, somewhere down the sprawling back halls of Atlanta’s Center Stage Theater, where they had been taping the upcoming 2019 season of the MTV show for the past two weeks. Someone in the room locked eyes with me cautiously, then asked if I was already recording. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.
Despite the barriers put on Cannon’s candor by his handlers, he seems to lean toward rebellion. One of his most recent displays of defiance was his response to Kanye West on Instagram after West called him out for making comments about Kim Kardashian, who is married to West and used to date Cannon. Cannon countered by posting from his own account, “You’re not gonna tell me what I can’t and can say. I’m a solid individual—if someone asks me a question, I’m gonna answer it to the best of my ability.”

There were more than a few people—squad members, entourage, assistants, etc.—hanging out backstage when I walked in. They were trying to find Cannon, who was apparently in wardrobe or getting his hair done, or both. When he finally wandered in, my first impression was that he looked muscular. Up until that moment, the image I had locked away of Cannon was that of a scrawny Nickelodeon prodigy, not a buff media mogul.
“I’ve always been an open book like that, so I feel like I’ll always continue to be like that,” Cannon tells Playboy, affirming his comment with a few quick nods. At this point, I’m dying to mention his ex, the same way your hands seem to gravitate towards things surrounded by big bold letters that read “Do not touch!” I take a short breath. I push the button: “Speaking of being an open book,” I begin before bringing up what has to be my favorite bit of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon folklore—the infamous self-congratulatory sex playlist.

Cannon once revealed that Carey’s favorite mating music happens to be her own, spilling “Can you imagine having sex with Mariah Carey while Mariah Carey is playing in the background? That is a dream come true.” He then added that their sensual soundtrack of choice was Carey’s smash hit “Hero.” I mention the playlist to Cannon, and ask if his sexual sonics have changed now that he’s single. What’s he playing, after having finalized their divorce in 2016? “Me!” he jests confidently. “It’s [my album] Calling All Models. No, it’s a little bit of everything. I always used to joke about that in the past, and now I really don’t even have time to throw on music. I’m ready to get to it. Like, let's go. Put on the playlist later!”
Now I really don’t even have time to throw on music [before sex]. I’m ready to get to it. Like, let's go. Put on the playlist later!
Cannon's latest music project, Calling All Models, was released in June, and it’s important to note that the album art shows a shirtless Cannon holding a phone while he's casually groped by multiple female hands that happen to be ornamented with very long, manicured nails. “I could have never put out a project like Calling All Models when I was a married man. It was really one of those things where I touch on every aspect of my life—pre-marriage, marriage, afterward. It goes into that space of who am I currently, who I’ve been. Who I want to be. And you can’t really have that full self-exploration until you go through some stuff. Until you can look at the other side of the lake and say, 'Man, I just swam all the way over here.'”

The actor, comedian, TV chairman of for Nickelodeon’s TeenNick and (every now and then) musician, has been dipping further into the business end of the music industry. He recently founded Ncredible, a record label, artist development and production company run through Republic Records. It’s given Cannon the opportunity to mentor up-and-coming artists, much like he says he's done Pete Davidson. Cannon and Davidson have known each other for a decade, even before Davidson appeared on Wild N’ Out in 2013, and long before his SNL fame. Cannon shares that when Davidson decided to pop the world’s biggest question to the world’s biggest pop star, one Ariana Grande, he called Cannon before he got down on one knee.
Selfishly, as someone who was obsessed with Grande and Davidson's whirlwind three-month courtship that culminated in their engagement before coming to an end last month, I had to ask Cannon what he thought of the couple. “I’m a fearless romantic,” Cannon says earnestly with a smile. “I think love is something that should be whimsical—love is not something that should be boxed in or dictated by how one should do it. If somebody feels like they’re so passionately in love, and they’ve only known each other for a few days, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a fairy tale, and that’s a beautiful thing—someone wants to fall in love with someone from a completely different walk of life, whether it's race, creed, religion. That’s what Shakespeare is built off of—those are the romantic aspects of love I think everyone should experience at least once in their life.”

Wild ‘N Out tapings always end with a crew after-party. I’m pretty sure there may have been a no-photo rule, but even if I were to attempt snapping a photo with my iPhone, the clouds of smoke pouring out of joints and bowls and whatever else, would be too thick for my Instagram followers to determine what they’re looking at. The last thing Cannon shares with me before I head out is, “I just want to bring good energy and vibe on a high frequency." He then adds that his mission is “giving others the opportunity to step in and take over.”

Those opportunities can be seen during the party’s last call. The room is a veritable hodgepodge of young YouTube sensations, Instagram models and former Vine stars, all drinking, playing pool—and did I mention smoking? 'Cause there was a whole hell of a lot of smoking—but more importantly, enjoying their adjoined moment in the limelight they wouldn’t have had without Cannon. Out of everything I heard, experienced and saw that day, his ability to pull people to the center stage with him is, out of all of his traits and achievements, the most wild.

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