Coming from a tough neighborhood like Southeast San Diego, you could have modeled yourself after edgier guys like Eddie Murphy or Robin Harris. But you initially came out polished and family-friendly…
The first opportunity, because I was 15, 16 years old, [was] the Nickelodeon opportunity. This was a way out, a job. A lot of people want to portray something that they’re not; it was kind of the opposite for me. I tried to downplay my neighborhood activity and affiliation. I had been arrested, a bunch of stuff. I was worried that Nickelodeon would find out and I would get fired, or even worse, that the police would find out.
I couldn’t even go back to my old neighborhood for a while—there was still drama that hadn’t really passed over, areas I couldn’t go through. People talk about “oh, he’s corny” but people I came up with, who wasn’t so corny, they not here no more—my best friend, my family members serving life in prison, doing the same shit I was doing. I think I made the right decision, like “I embrace that corniness if its gonna keep me out of trouble.” I was on some Keyser Soze stuff. People who knew me before all this are like, “You had the best scheme ever!”
With your “F#ck Nick Cannon” video single and Showtime comedy special of the same name, you’re evolving from family-friendly to more edgy, right?
I’m always gonna be me, I’m never gonna give you anything fake. There’s different sides to everybody. People might only know the Nickelodeon dude, but I’ve been making them moves from the beginning. I’m a man in my 30s, and if I curse or talk about sex, that’s stuff regular people do. When the cameras aren’t on, I’ve always been that dude to speak my mind whether on my radio show or in most of the independent films I’ve done. [“F#ck Nick Cannon”] was a toast to the haters. I hear what y’all saying and I’mma embrace it. Now when anyone says “F#ck Nick Cannon,” they’re promoting my album.
You’re stunting with Lamborghinis and actual diamond shoes in the video, but you’re also self-deprecating at the same time, it seems.
That’s where my humor comes from. Whether me and Kevin Hart on Real Husbands of Hollywood or in my stand-up acts, regurgitating what people say, Mariah jokes, Nickelodeon... I created Wild 'N Out just to show people that when you make fun of yourself, thats some of the best humor ever. I’ve built an industry on that.
You’ve also admitted that your level of fame, versus your wife’s level of fame, is a whole different category…
Aw yeah, nah, thats a whole ‘nother ballgame. People see her and start crying. I call her the most famous woman in the world. We’ll go to places you wouldn’t think people have televisions or radios, and they know who she is, her whole catalog, songs she wrote that changed their lives. That’s a Michael Jackson level of fame. I don’t even know if I want that kind of fame.
People identify Mariah so much with the holidays...what did you get her last Christmas?
I tried to do something sentimental. I tried to do like in my newest video, “Dance Floor”; I surprised her with photoshopped photos of us as kids, as if we would have known each other [then]. It got to a point, before this past Christmas, where we were just buying each other cars. She don’t drive, so she has all these brand-new cars that have like, two miles on ‘em—big Porsches, Mercedes, Phantoms. Even her jewelry game, she got jewelry that she bought herself, Elizabeth Taylor jewelry, where one ring is what a company’s worth.
There are exemplary celebrity artist couples—the Jays and Beyoncés, Will and Jadas, even Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. You and Mariah are particularly known for having an elite work ethic. What advice would you give aspiring power couples about juggling work and family?
When we’re in the house, I try and focus on family, but you gotta deal with business. I know I gotta get on this plane and make sure I’m on the other side of the country for breakfast. Our common ground is, once we’re in the house, it’s all about family.
You joked on your new Showtime special, F#ck Nick Cannon, that women are freakier than men, and you and Mariah talk about getting in as much sex as possible to keep the marriage poppin’—