Nick Cannon is a jack of all trades, juggling endless endeavors that the average person could only imagine fitting in one lifetime. Every morning he’s on air at Power 106, Los Angeles’ #1 Hip Hop radio station, just launched both weekday and Saturday national shows, flies to the East Coast every Tuesday for grad school at Howard University, films two television shows, Wild ‘n Out and Masked Singer, fathers three children, and still manages to find time to create an Eminem diss song. Oh, he also wrote, executive-produced, and starred in his forthcoming movie, She Ball.
Born and raised in South Beach, San Diego, Cannon has traveled all over the world throughout the years — but he still calls SD home. “It was a tough community to come up in, so you plant your roots,” he explains to Uproxx. “Cats who can overcome the obstacles and survive to not only see other parts of the world but also come back and share that wisdom with your community has always been a goal.”
The 39-year-old hails from a long line of community activists from my father to ministers. He describes the notion of giving back as a code: to whom much is given much is required. “When we have, we give, so it’s each one teach one process,” he states. “My dad always instilled in me: instead of using your brother as your enemy, you lift your brother up. Especially the younger generation, it’s about instilling in them: education, wisdom, and knowledge of self. That’s how we operate.”
Cannon also sees his philanthropic efforts as not only a duty, but a privilege. “It really is a blessing,” he explains to Uproxx. “It puts everything in a proper perspective for you when you think of all that goes on, and the things that we pretend matter in society. But when you go to a Children’s Hospital and you see a child with a terminally ill disease, you’re like ‘Yo, I don’t have any problems. If this kid can sit here and smile, enjoy life, why can’t I?’”
Cannon has worked alongside the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for the last decade, with the ultimate goal of having his own children’s hospital one day. Additionally, he’s on the board of St. Mary.
Giving back globally is more than just a monetary sense for Cannon, it’s about providing opportunities. If we’re talking brick and mortar, he owns a community center in San Diego and they’ve done activations for the last two decades. The youth centers are motivational institutes specifically dealing with young men in gang prevention programs, education, health and wellness, martial arts, and more recently even leaning towards yoga.
He also stresses the importance of utilizing “Motivational speaking, things building your articulation and vocabulary.” In the health and wellness space, Nick was a part of Drug Free Youth — a program his dad established when he was a preteen.
Everything Cannon does in the space of prison reform and facilitation inside incarceration facilities makes him appreciate his freedom. “It makes you try to be a rock or pillar for the people who need you the most when they’re locked down,” he states. “I always put myself in those types of positions because it reminds me of where I came from and really, my purpose in having such a strong light and influence.”
Cannon hails from a family where the majority of men have been incarcerated. “I’ve never had a long stint of incarceration but I’ve had my run-ins with the criminal justice system where we know it’s all flawed. When you think of the ideas of mass incarceration, with my degree being in criminology, I understand the study and the infrastructure of what and why it was designed.”
He continues, “We can, in a sense, reform that infrastructure. A lot of people think prison reform is about the reform of the individuals and to prevent recidivism, but it’s really more about reforming the systemic issues that have become a common practice or systematic to continue to create this cycle, the school to prison pipeline — or as I call it, the cradle to prison pipeline.”
When it comes to his education, Nick is going to be forever attempting to learn. His passion for learning triumphs the rest of his endeavors — he’s a sponge when it comes to absorbing knowledge and wisdom. Back to prison reform, he states, “Even in my philanthropic efforts and what I do through various foundations and organizations, I’m going to always try and give back specifically to my brothers and sisters who are incarcerated.”
Nick currently travels from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. every Tuesday to attend classes at Howard University, studying for his Masters majoring in Criminology and minoring in African American Studies. But the cross-country commute is the last of his worries.
“To enrich and educate myself, I’ll go across the world for it. To be able to do it at what they call ‘the mecca,’ I’m honored.”
But Cannon isn’t in school for a piece of paper or for the grades, he truly went to get the information. He states, “As I’m speaking on prison reform, as I’m diving deep into all of these ideas and concepts that society has put forth, I can speak intelligently on the topic and not just have an opinion.”
Cannon is currently involved in multiple programs, including ones at Howard for the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents. While he didn’t design programs from the Inside-Out Program to The Dr. Muhammad Experience, he’s a proud participant.
“Dr. Mohammed is my professor in criminology, we get the opportunity to facilitate every semester in a different form. We’ve done everything from visiting prisons in Uganda to introducing women prisons to curriculums where they get a chance to reconnect with their families and children. Everything from the legal aspects all the way to truly extracurricular activities, art programs, things in these prisons that empower and encourage your typical person on the inside.”
Nick has also worked alongside the Boys & Girls Club his entire career because he himself was a kid at the Boys & Girls Club. Growing up even when he couldn’t even afford the fee to go to the Boys & Girls Club, they allowed him to be a youth counselor and work for the ability to make a little extra money to put some food on the table. He states, “I’m forever in debt to the Boys & Girls Club and the experience I had with them.”
Most recently, Nick Cannon was present at the MLK parade which took place in Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park. “I’m a man of the community, that’s the whole reason why I’m doing radio and even going into my talk show,” he explains. “It’s really to show people that it’s not about how big of a star you are or how much of a celebrity you could be, what do you do for others? How can you really connect with your community? That’s what Dr. King embodied and that’s what I choose to do.”
On the day we celebrate MLK’s life, Nick states, “Why not jump in it and go directly to where in which we came?”
The Los Angeles Mission is another organization he’s been working with for over a decade. Serving as part of their board, he’s helped them raise money and do various fundraisers. He states, “There’s something super impactful when you visit downtown Skid Row and you see all of these lives in these souls who are yearning for help and possibly in pain. The LA Mission is a beacon of light in that area. We go down there monthly and we help feed the homeless. We donate money, time, supplies. It’s making a difference. One small hug at a time.”
At the end of last year, Nick put on his Santa Claus hat and became Saint Nick for an entire holiday season of gift-giving. Any time someone had a true need or they knew of someone who had a need, Nick liked it when they’d nominate or recommend someone. They’d write a letter to Saint Nick and he’d grant all of the wishes in that letter — something he hopes to bring back in 2020.
Growing up, Nick remembers his Christmases in government housing. They weren’t extravagant, as he recalls the joy in receiving a baseball or one year, even a used bike. “They were all amazing, I would never complain,” he says. “Luckily for me, even though I didn’t have a traditional family, I have a lot of people who love me. Being raised by teenage parents and my grandmother to help, they did what they could.”
Altogether, Cannon was overwhelmed with love. That’s what holidays were all about for him: time spent together as a family rather than the materialistic items you can get. Another one of his initiatives is rebuilding public school basketball courts across LA in low socioeconomic communities.
Through his efforts in youth education, Nick plans to keep the arts in school, and the arts in entertainment and sports specifically. He states, “I partnered with some amazing partners: the NBA, the WNBA, as well as the manufacturer of a lot of these courts. I first started designing and helping do courts on the All-Star games. A lot of the players and entertainers would go out and we’d build playgrounds and courts. The NBA would set it up so I met a lot of these individuals through that process.”
Nick has started implementing these courts all over the country: North Carolina, San Diego, and of course, Los Angeles. The latter is a project he’s working on in this current moment, all surrounded by the Nick Cannon Mornings. His biggest passion is going to build these parks and sprucing them all up.
“That’s really a goal of mine to not only do sports courts but libraries, community centers. All in the name of paying it forward.”
While basketball wasn’t a big part of Nick’s life, he’s always been a fan of it. In fact, he just completed his own film titled She Ball. “I directed a film about a female youth basketball that stars myself, Chris Brown, Cedric The Entertainer, and Birdman (who plays a character named Buck Star).
“I was introduced to a whole other world of youth sports that I know is truly important. Building self-esteem, encouraging young men and specifically young women.”
When it comes to juggling his education, jobs, and fatherhood, people are quick to think “how does he do all that he does?” He answers, “People say that all the time, I see it as more about energy. When you find the energy, you’ll find the time. I do several things but I see it as one movement. I get up with the same amount of energy and I push it towards something I love. I love my community, I love to entertain. When all of that can come together, I don’t see it as a different task. Nah, we’re going to try to put smiles on peoples’ faces one good deed at a time.”
Nick’s job is to entertain, uplift, inspire — in every aspect. “If you’re smiling and I’m smiling, we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do,” he states.
Cannon explains the purpose of his current role as Power 106’s Nick Cannon Morning’s lead host. “That’s what I’m here for,” he states. “I crack this mic open each and every morning on Power 106 to fulfill the needs of the community. We want to do everything where we highlight power players every morning. People who are doing good deeds in the city, I want to tap in with all those nonprofits and organizations. Ultimately do the Power awards.”
The Power awards will be highlighting people who do good in the community, people who are making the community a better place. Cannon’s goal is to truly continue to make that stamp and let people know they’re really here and really about the community.
Being a father to three, Cannon also views his kids as his community. He states, “everything about what we do in the importance of life and to be here. To be an example to raise your offspring up to become your legacy, my kids are everything. They’re my purpose. They’re my priority.”
In terms of his legacy, Nick Cannon just wants to be known as someone that made people smile. He states, “I want to be an optimist, someone who always operated on the highest frequency and inspired others to be a light as well.”