In 2007, Nick Cannon ended a two-year run of his hip-hop improve comedy show Wild’n Out. The show brought together two of Nick’s passions – comedy and music – in a way that was only comparable to a show like In Living Color. From the moment the show left MTV, people wanted it back. By 2010, Cannon began considering bringing the show back. By 2012, he was convinced, and started building a comedy team to get the ball rolling. This time, Nick didn’t just turn to comedians for support. A fan of hip-hop’s famed Battle Rap leagues, Cannon followed the battles of a young battle rapper named Conceited. He hit the NY rhymespitter on Twitter (much to Conceited’s display) and asked him to join Wild’n Out’s 2.0 movement. While Wild’n Out just returned to television, Conceited exists as Nick Cannon’s secret weapon – sometime trained for off the cuff bars intended to hit hard and make people laugh. Life+Times caught up with Nick Cannon (and Conceited) to discuss comedy and battle rap, and how the two when executed properly aren’t mutually exclusive.
Life+Times: Nick, last time you and I spoke, you were considering bringing back Wild’n Out…and now it’s back.
Nick Cannon: It’s back, it’s official, it’s here! You see how you speak things into existence?
L+T: The public definitely wanted it. So, what actually brought it back out? What was your moment where you were like, “Alright, now’s the time”?
NC: I mean, I think it was a couple factors. One, like you said, the public really wanted it. They were creating Facebook campaigns, talking about it on Twitter. And then just knowing that when it went away…I mean like, right now I’ve probably never been more in the public eye. And it’s a forum that allows people to kind of not take themselves so seriously. So I thought it was the right timing. I was talking with Kevin Hart – you know we did The Real Husbands of Hollywood and all of that. You know, we made those schedules work, so I was like, there’s no reason why we can’t block out a certain amount of time to try to do the same thing with Wild’n Out. So, I think all of those factors kind of played into actually having the time to get it done.
Life+Times: Conceited, how does it feel to be a part of the cast? Especially seeing what happened to the cast mates. You know, the exposure, just big things happen when you get on Wild’n Out.
Conceited: I just feel blessed, man. Very, very blessed. Happy. But it’s crazy…I used to always want to actually be on the show. Every time I saw it, I was like damn, I actually want to get on this show badly! And then all of a sudden, my man Nick made it happen. I’m extremely grateful.
L+T: How did you two get connected?
NC: Oh, I was just a fan! I was a Conceited fan, of his battles and stuff. And I would watch them online and I was like yo, not only is this dude nice, he’s hilarious! So I just reached out. I was going through a couple different avenues of how to get to him, and I think eventually through Twitter, right?
Conceited: Yeah. I have a booking email on my Twitter, and my man runs it. So then he called me and was like, “Yo, Nick Cannon wants you to do Wild’n Out!” I was like, “Man, stop playing!” And he was like, “Nah…forreal. Forreal!” And then he was like,“He’s in New York and all that.” And I was like, “Word?” And I went to Nick’s Twitter page, and it said Nick Cannon is following me. I was like, “Oh man! This shit is real! This is real!” We just set it up, and the rest is history from there.
Life+Times: Now Nick, you brought up that you had been a fan of Conceited’s battles, and I don’t think people realize how much of a strong – outside of even lyricism and the ability to freestyle and stuff – the humor that’s historically added to Battle Rap, and how that would actually play into an improv show like Wild’n Out. The fact that you were checking battle raps to fine cast members is crazy.
Nick: Yeah. It’s really about the form and trying to stay true to the art form of hip-hop. To command a battle rap crowd, for that you need to really have skills! You got to know how to deal with a crowd, and then your punchlines got to be legendary because they’ve heard almost everything. So if you ain’t really bringing it… You know, I love the way they break it down in their competitions where there’s like, it’s personal where you dug into this dude’s history and you go… Whether it’s standup or even improv, it’s like, if you can do battle rap, you can definitely do standup or improv because there’s nothing like that type of environment like that. It’s just really…the heat is on!
Conceited: Yeah, it’s intense. Very intense.
L+T: What do you think that this opportunity for you will do for Battle Rap organizations like Smack URL and Grind Time and things like that? What do you think this is going to do for them? You’re moving into a huge platform and you’re from the battleground. That’s what people dream of.
Conceited: Right, yeah! I think that’s going to shed a lot of light and it’s going to give a lot more battle rappers chances to venture out a lot. I think since Nick took that chance, he got a battle rapper to actually go to the next level, I think other people are going to mimic his footsteps and do the same. I think for battle rap as a whole, this move was very, very big for the battle rap community to the fullest.
L+T: Yeah, for sure. How have you approached your freestyles on Wild’n Out? Those battle rap battles get vicious. It looks like somebody’s going to snuff somebody. How do you keep it, how should I say, TV-friendly now that you’re in this environment?
Conceited: I mean the approach was the same with the preparation. Everything was still the same, except I just had to water it down to be not as vicious as I would normally.
NC: He went more into comedy than gun-toting with the hammers on him.
Conceited: Exactly! I went for the joke instead of the jugular.
Nick, you come from both worlds. You’re a musician and you’re a comedian, and you merge those two worlds on this show. But for you, which do you think is harder when you’ve got the cameras on you? Is it harder to take the lyrical aspect or is it harder to be funny when you’re put in that position?
Nick: It depends on the audience, honestly. Because, they’re both very similar audiences where the thing they have in common is you’ve gotta be authentic. You can’t fake it. No one likes a fake musician, and nobody likes a comedian who talks about things when he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And the thing that people love is organic authenticity. You like Kevin Hart because he’s sharing his life with you. He has no problem talking about his small-man complex and all that stuff. And that makes it funny, and it’s the same thing with music. Your favorite artists are the people where you feel like you’re really getting to know them. So if you’re ever in an environment and you’re trying to perform as a musician and it’s not really your environment, it’s never going to go well. It’s the same thing with comedy, so it really depends on the environment.