Actor, rapper, producer and all-around entertainer Nick Cannon sits down with the AJC to talk about a range of topics, including Super Bowl 53, Wendy Williams and Atlanta's comedy talent. Video by Ryon Horne/AJC

Nick Cannon, rapper/actor, dishes on Super Bowl and the Williams show

The latest news from the hyphenated polymath Nick Cannon (singer/rapper/actor/television host/producer/entrepreneur) is that he will be substituting as the host of “The Wendy Williams Show,” while Williams recuperates from health problems.

The debonair 38-year-old Cannon can’t say how long he will be running the chat show past the three episodes he’s contracted for. He insists, “Like everyone else, I’m anxious to get Wendy back in the chair. But as long as they need me, I’m one phone call away.”

Nick Cannon's crystalized loafers. BO EMERSON/BEMERSON@AJC.COM

Dressed in gray-on-gray conservative attire, with a pair of crystal-encrusted shoes and an iced-out Patek Philippe timepiece his only concessions to flash, Cannon was at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown on Thursday to help the IHG hotel chain celebrate the Super Bowl, and to talk about the chain’s Home Team Hospitality campaign.

As a teenager, the Californian performed in comedy clubs in Atlanta, and got his first national attention as the lead in “Drumline,” which was filmed here, so he affably calls Atlanta his second hometown. As a semi-native, he volunteered to serve as a guide on a party bus that took Cannon and a crowd of influencers to see a few sights.

Those influencers, invited to the Crowne Plaza for the occasion, included Doug the Pug, a dog with a pushed-in face who has 3.7 million Instagram followers. All 3.7 million were treated to a Nick-and-Doug selfie.

During his Atlanta visit, Cannon received some good news that he will be hosting another season of Fox’s “The Masked Singer.” Adapted from a popular Korean program of the same name, the show has undercover celebrities performing in masks, and the panel must try to guess their identities.

After leaving the party bus behind, Cannon shed his jacket (with the faux fur collar) and spoke about the debate among entertainers about whether to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show, considering the ill treatment of quarterback Colin Kaepernick following his silent protest during the national anthem.

During his impromptu tour in the IHG party bus, Nick Cannon met Atlanta artist, Karen “Tiny Doors ATL” Anderson. Her latest door isn’t tiny, it’s gargantuan. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for IHG)
Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for IHG

The way Cannon described his philosophy, if you’ve earned “cultural equity” — i.e., paid your dues in service to your community — then the decision should be up to you. “Somebody like a Gladys Knight (who will sing the aforementioned national anthem) has an abundance of cultural equity,” said Cannon, “so the decisions that she makes have always been for the culture.”

Some celebrity connections are controversial for other reasons.

In 2003, Cannon collaborated with R&B singer R. Kelly on the popular “Gigolo,” well before Kelly was subject to national scrutiny and hammered by a boycott campaign due to his alleged sexual misconduct. Cannon said pointing fingers at Kelly is less important than listening to the victims.

“It’s these women we need to focus on more than the individual,” he said. “The more we can empower women and empower movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, and listen and hear their stories and be there for them, that’s the most important thing.”

At the same time, he said, “it pains you, the same way you feel about family members, when you see them in disheartening and unfortunate situations. As a father, especially as a father of a daughter, a lot of the claims and things that are going on are sickening.”

That daughter would be Monroe. She and her twin brother Moroccan are currently in Saudi Arabia, with their mother, Mariah Carey, to whom Cannon was married from 2008 until 2016.

Cannon said a new album of his own will be out later in the year and describes it as more pop than hip-hop. “There’ll be singing. It will be kind of a Bruno Mars thing.” Before then, he will be traveling to Dubai to shoot what he calls a “heist movie” with an ensemble cast. (He plays the role of a “con man,” he said.)

He will also release a collaboration with Migos on his own record label, Ncredible.

Like hosting “The Wendy Williams Show,” producing records is something he has fun doing. “I don’t do anything that I don’t have fun with,” he said.

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