Nick Cannon on 'Wild 'N Out' and His Decade-Long Feud With Eminem: 'I Think He Knows Better Now'

A quick glance at Nick Cannon‘s busy schedule will have you wondering if he has the same 24 hours in a day that you do. Even during a national quarantine, Cannon is trying to mimic his typical routine as much as possible.

Holed up in the “sanctuary” that is his office in Burbank, Calif., the 39-year-old squeezes time in for a phone interview with Billboard after finishing his Friday shift hosting his self-titled morning radio show on the airwaves of L.A.’s historic Power 106.

Next on the agenda for the entertainment chameleon? Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out returns for season 15 following just a weeklong break, and is set to premiere on Tuesday (April 21) at 8:00 p.m. EST on VH1. The reinvented comedy battles will now feature team Old School versus team New School, with special guests from the rap world including T.I., Chicago’s Lil Durk, and Chance The Rapper.

“When you think about comedy, humor heals and satire is holding a mirror up to society. I feel like a lot of other places are making a homogenized comedy that doesn’t hit like it’s supposed to,” Cannon explains of the uniqueness of the lucrative show he created in 2005. “Wild ‘N Out canceled cancel culture.”

No matter the medium, Cannon wants to flood the marketplace by having his voice and million-dollar smile be unavoidable for consumers at every turn. On top of his radio show and WNO, Cannon hosts Fox’s The Masked Singer, has a daytime television show coming in September, and is gearing up to carry out Nipsey Hussle‘s vision by producing a documentary on herbalist Dr. Sebi, along with penning Suge Knight’s memoir. Oh, did we mention he’s getting his criminology degree in May from Howard University while being a father of three?

“I had my eye on the prize and stayed the course by being the best entertainer and provider of content I could possibly be,” Cannon says when thinking back to the ultimate vision he had for himself. “I always wanted to be multi-faceted and not put in a box and that’s kind of the same vibe today, but the platform’s just a little bit bigger.”

With Cannon tying himself at the hip with Wild ‘N Out, which he told VIBE has skyrocketed to be worth nearly $500 million as a brand, the performer now sees eye-to-eye with the moguls who inspired him to try his hand in the entertainment world in the first place.

“I liken myself to hopefully be like cats I look up to, like a Quincy Jones, Merv Griffin, Russell [Simmons] and Lyor Cohen with Def Jam, Puff [Daddy] with Bad Boy, and Suge [Knight] with Death Row,” he confidently states. “These are guys that curated and shaped culture, and that’s all I looked to do and hopefully, I can continue to do that for the masses.”

Below, find the rest of our chat with Cannon, who speaks on his decade-long Eminem feud, the devastating loss of Kobe Bryant, Joe Budden giving him his flowers, and more.

With season 15 of Wild ‘N Out debuting on Tuesday, what can fans expect?

We flipped it to what people have really been asking for. We had the opportunity to put the Old School against the New School cats. It’s been cool with the Verzuz battles going on online between artists; now we kind of put the artists against the artists. I’m the captain of the Old School squad, and I put DC Young Fly on the New School squad.

We got celebrity cameos from Chance The Rapper, Lil Durk, and T.I. coming to the show as well. 

I put T.I. on my team for team Old School, while Durk and Chance are on the New School team. It’s just giving them the chance to have fun with each other and stuff like that. It’s always something every season where we either cross the line or somebody airs something out. I think you’re going to see a lot of stuff where people are going to be shocked that we took it that far.

Going off that, we saw Emmanuel Hudson airing out Spoken Reason to close out last season. What did you think about that getting personal with the history they have?

Those two dudes, they had things they had to hash out for quite some time. It eventually got to my awareness when Spoken Reason was coming at me online. I was like, “Just come to the show and we’ll talk about it.” I view Wild ‘N Out as a great mechanism for people that have these beefs or issues to use our great stage to say whatever it is you want to say in front of the public.

With comedy getting diluted, do you feel Wild ‘N Out is the last organic and authentic show in that lane compared to planned reality television-like skits?

It is a no-holds-barred forum, but you also get to see people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and faiths go at it. This is the only show you’ll see someone from the transgender community battling someone who is homophobic. They’ll throw all sorts of jabs at each other, but end up hugging it out in the end. This is a great place of understanding, but it’s not that we’re afraid of our differences — we embrace them.

In a society where people are so politically correct and tip-toeing around while not trying to offend anyone, this is a show where we’re saying that we’re here to roast, have a good time, but there’s no hate involved. That’s what comedy is all about.

How does it feel to return to the radio airwaves in the mornings on L.A.’s Power 106?

I love it, man. Power 106 is a fixture in our hip-hop community and it has been around for so long. It is truly an iconic brand, and for me to be at the helm of that, I saw it as a great opportunity. It’s a puzzle piece into my overall media conglomerate. I kind of want to be on every platform possible and have that presence.

People know they can get that one-stop shop to where I have a No. 1 radio show in Los Angeles and a daily talk show out of New York at almost the same time. Obviously, from my podcast and digital platform to a No. 1 show in The Masked Singer and another No. 1 on cable with Wild ‘N Out, I don’t think anybody is out there dominating every platform.

How have you been coping with the quarantine?

I read two books a week as a practice anyway, considering I’m currently enrolled in college and set to graduate in a few weeks. Everyone was looking for something to do, and I was like, “I got something.” That’s something I tell my kids, “Yo, you could put down those iPads and pick up a book or two.” I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing. I live in my studios and gyms; they’re my sanctuary. I’m quarantined in my offices, and when the world gets turned back on, I’ll be in the same place.

Are your twins with you or quarantined with Mariah Carey in New York?

The twins are with Mariah in New York; a lot of FaceTiming with them every single day. Right before the travel mandate, they were with me and I was out on the East Coast. As soon as I knew the travel ban was coming, I got a plane and came out west [for work].

Did guest-hosting The Wendy Williams Show put the battery in your back to want to host a daytime talk show?

I had already been developing some sort of daily show, but we were focused on late night. Then I did Wendy Williams and we saw the massive response from the daytime audience and I thought we could flip the whole thing — and that’s what we did. Now here we are, taking over daytime. I have my relationship with Fox so it’s going to be on their stations, but it’s syndicated, so I could pop up on any other network.

We tragically lost Kobe Bryant in January. Can you speak to your friendship with him?

2020 has shown us that we can’t take one moment for granted. We can’t take people that are near and dear to us for granted. Those are the hardest people to lose when it’s out of nowhere; the ones that resonate and make you want to question everything about existence and it’s people with such powerful, strong, and beautiful intentions. That’s who that brother was. I try to rely on understanding that we were blessed to have him in the time that we did have him, and there’s only a few people like that. He brought so much joy to people around the world, and we have to honor him in that way.

Joe Budden gave you your flowers for all that you accomplished in entertainment on his podcast earlier this year. What did you think about that, and have you talked to him since?

I was touched and I reposted it immediately. I don’t consider it reaching out or talking, but we did chat through DMs. Once I get back to the East Coast, [I’ll] pull up on my man when we’re no longer quarantined and break bread with him in that manner. Joe and I have known each other for years, and one thing I can say is that he’s always been real and solid, even when we don’t share the same opinion.

From him to Charlamagne [Tha God] or other people that can be polarizing at times, I always salute those brothers for holding firm in their beliefs because that’s true character. For him to say what he did, out of nowhere, he didn’t have to do that and I appreciate that.

When you and Eminem rehashed your decade-long feud at the end of 2019, were you surprised he didn’t offer up an official response with a diss track of his own?

My response was his invitation to Wild ‘N Out, and that still stands. You gotta remember, I was defending myself once again. He keeps bringing it up for decades. I’m one of those cats that matches energy. I don’t do it — I overdo it. Even in high school, I was a little guy, but if you made fun of me, I was gonna make fun of you, your momma, and that’s the same energy of Wild ‘N Out. It was a month of social commentary, but if you’ve ever heard me speak on this matter, I always give that dude his props as an icon in hip-hop. I think he knows better now. If he keeps talking about me, I’m gonna keep talking back.

You told DJ Vlad that Eminem is a product of institutional racism. Can you expand on what you meant by that?

It’s the idea that there is a superior class of people who are judged by a different measuring stick. It’s something Eminem has even addressed being a guest in the house of hip-hop. When you come from a culture that was built by a community that didn’t have something of their own, but were able to embrace it and it became a new conduit of information for a new culture. And when someone comes in and shines in that medium and takes it to the masses, it’s the same thing as [what] Elvis Presley [did]. There’s nothing wrong with it, but you gotta accept it for what it is.

How did you get a little Suge Knight voice memo from him for “The Invitation” intro while he’s behind bars?

I go see Suge at least once a month. What Alex Haley was to The Autobiography of Malcolm X is what I’m doing for Suge Knight. I’m giving him the opportunity to tell his story through my pen. We’ve already been chopping it up daily, and he caught wind of what was going on and wanted to say something on one of these tracks. As an author, I was just working on writing his book with him, and he wanted to look out for little bro, I guess. I got so many other focuses, from me releasing the Dr. Sebi documentary that I produced with Nipsey Hussle and then we’ll hopefully drop the Suge book by quarter four of this year. It should be here for the holidays.

What were some of your conversations with Nipsey like that made you want to carry out the doc’s vision?

I actually thought it was just dope and how compassionate he was as an individual. We would more talk about my own health, as I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition [lupus nephritis] in 2012. My diet had to change completely, and the teachings of Dr. Sebi were quite influential.

I had to take my life into my own hands, and knowing Nip was probably a more diligent follower of Dr. Sebi than I was at the time, I was more listening to my kidney doctors. He was like, “How much are you up on Dr. Sebi?” I was up on his practices because I’m more of a student of Dick Gregory and I know their journeys were quite close. So we would chop it up about stuff like that, and we would talk about taking our health into our own hands and teaching the community.

What goals do you have left for yourself in entertainment? You’ve pretty much done it all before 40. 

I think it’s to provide for others. I think even when we see the Wild ‘N Out empire, I started this brand by putting my own money up in 2004 as really a show to provide jobs for my friends. Those friends are now millionaires and have platforms that they own. Just to see everyone shine is [great] so I want to continue to do that because it doesn’t come around often.