In the last few days, Nick Cannon has raised controversy and eyebrows by first going white-faced and now sporting cheetah-spotted hair. The attention-grabbing moves coincide with today's release of Cannon's first music album in 11 years, "White People Party Music" (April 1, Ncredible Entertainment/RED Distribution).
His last music album was also his debut: 2003's "Nick Cannon," which climbed to No. 15 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Eight years later came his comedy album "Mr. Showbiz," which hit No. 3 on Top Comedy Albums. Co-executive produced by Cannon, Polow Da Don and DJ Buddah, the 18-track WPPM features such collaborators as Pitbull, Future, Akon, Migos and Afrojack, the latter of whom produced the pop/rap album's latest dance single, "Looking for a Dream."
Billboard recently caught up with Cannon at a listening party for the album at Hollywood's Ohm Nightclub.
Any trepidation about coming back after 11 years?
"It doesn't feel that long because I've been doing so many things within the music industry during that time. I have my own record label [Ncredible Entertainmen], have worked at other record labels, been dropping singles and mixtapes and DJing. So even though I haven't personally put anything out, I've still been around music. One of my last singles not on an album was "Can I Live?" featuring Anthony Hamilton that Kanye West produced. That was probably the halfway mark, seven to eight years ago [the single was released in 2005]."
Why open yourself up to a hard time with the album's title?
"I hoped people would give me a hard time [Laughs]. That's the whole purpose. It's just a fun album with a fun title that doesn't take itself too seriously. At the same time it makes a statement. I always say white people love me, and they know how to have a good time. Being a DJ, you name all your different crates and playlists. That's the way I came up with the title. I have bar mitzvah music, trap music, ratchet music and one that says white people party music. And I said to myself, 'You know, I'm going to name my album that.' The album could have been titled Purple People Party Music. It's just a bunch of feel-good songs that tap into the many different places that I've been in my life."
How did you choose your diverse list of collaborators?
"They're just people who are on the same vibe and page with me. Afrojack definitely knows how to make white people party music. He's a cool cat; somebody I consider a friend. The same thing with everyone from Akon, Pitbull and [producer] Rodney jerkins to Future and Migos. It was just yo, everybody. Let's do something fun."
What's next from Ncredible?
"Some exciting things. I have a few films we're producing, including "Drum Line 2." Then there's the soundtrack for my show "Wild "N Out," featuring several of the artists and comedians from the show's cast including Emmanuel Hudson, who's huge on YouTube. Among the acts we've signed to the label is a young cat by the name of Ryan Bowers from San Diego, who is making a lot of noise on the underground hip-hop scene. There's also Kehlani Parrish from the Bay Area, who was actually in the finals of "America's Got Talent" in the group PopLyfe She was kid then, but she's about to turn 19 now and working on a project we're targeting for summer. It's really about tapping into that 360 idea: to not just do music but to also build an artist's brand by also tapping into film, television and other different platforms."
Speaking of television, how is your revamp of legendary dance show "Soul Train" coming along?
"It's a project that's near and dear to my heart as it is for many others. So I'm being very careful with it because I do not want to be known as the guy who brought "Soul Train" back and messed it up. We were actually scheduled to shoot the show during Oscar week; trying to do 10 episodes in like a week. But it got a little overwhelming in terms of booking everything. So it was yo, give me a minute so I can get this right. And there are cooks in the kitchen to where the network may want one thing, but the brand represents another. So I made a conscious decision to step back and say if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this right. I'm still aiming for 2014 but it will probably be more like 2015. I'd rather take my time. There's no rush. We got the deal; I own the brand. It's about moving properly. We've got to do it right."