Nick Cannon discusses his talents & local roots


Nick Cannon is living proof that patience pays off.

“I remember going on a field trip to The San Diego Union-Tribune, when I was in third or fourth grade at Kennedy Elementary, and I said: ‘You should interview me some day,” said the southeastern San Diego native, who this year will host the NBC show “America’s Got Talent” for the seventh consecutive year.

And what was the reaction to the interview suggestion by Cannon, now 35?

“They patted me on the head!” he said, chuckling at the memory.

Cannon won’t be on hand Tuesday when the auditions for “America’s Got Talent” are held at the San Diego Convention Center. But he does have some some advice for anyone who does try out.

“Try to be unique, and try not to be mediocre,” he said. “The thing that’s special about this show is we want people to give it their all, no matter what their all is.”

Cannon spent Christmas in San Diego with his grandparents. He spoke by phone from New York on Monday, about 25 years after his field trip to the Union-Tribune. Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Q: You’ve been hosting “America’s Got Talent” since 2009. You’re in the new Spike Lee movie “Chi-Raq.” You’re a chief creative officer for Radio Shack. You’re in the cast of the BET TV series “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” You manage Amber Rose. And you are a father of two (with estranged wife Mariah Carey). Are you a workaholic?

A: (laughs) I guess some people could describe that as a workaholic. I consider it all one job. Entertainment is my business, therefore, I consider myself an ‘entrepretainer.’ It’s kind of all one gig.

Q: When and where did your first audition take place, and how did it go?

A: Oh, man! It was auditioning for church talent shows. And, usually, it would go fairly well. I was a jack-of-all-trades, dancing, playing music, telling a joke. The first time I was maybe 4 or 5. It was at Mount Erie Baptist Church, on 47th Street. I was telling jokes, calling them ‘Jesus jokes.’ They were probably more cute than funny.

Q: What was the first concert you went to here?

A: It was either M.C. Hammer or Run-DMC, at the San Diego Sports Arena.

“America’s Got Talent” San Diego auditions

When: 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: San Diego Convention Center, downtown

Online: You must register in advance at

Q: Was there an immediate cause-and-effect?

A: Definitely. To see the showmanship M.C. Hammer had was really something.

Q: Did you go out and get the baggy Hammer pants?

A: I had it all: the baggy pants, the glasses, the fake jewelry. I was all about it!

Q: San Diego has always had a lot of musical talent. Who inspired you here growing up?

A: I grew up in the hip-hop community, and I was one of the very few to take it as far as I did. I looked up to quite a few people at the time. From Southeast One to Mickey Slick, there are people to this day in that community I still have fellowship with. We came up in this together, and they passed the torch to me.

Q: Left-field question: What kind of watch were you wearing in your 2003 video, “Your Pops Don’t Like Me?”

A: Ooh! I don’t know. Probably a big, oversized diamond watch.

Q: How did growing up in San Diego impact you?

A: I always credit growing up in Southeast as something that kind of molded and helped me into becoming the person I am now. I came from humble beginning and then was blessed enough to not only create great opportunities for myself, but to create them for others.

Q: Do you come back often?

A: Oh, all the time; my family still lives there. I was there over the holidays, hanging out at my grandparents’ house.

Q: Do you come back often?

A: Oh, all the time; my family still lives there. I was there over the holidays, hanging out at my grandparents’ house.

Q: You were 15 or 16 when you moved from San Diego to L.A. What was your goal at the time?

A: Ah, man, I was a teenager! I was a kid. I just felt blessed to be creative. And when I heard people might possibly pay me for my creativity, and that I could help my mom pay for her rent, that was all I could do.

Q: You starred in the 2002 movie “Drumline.” How much of the drumming did you actually do in it?

A: I tried to do as much as I possibly could; I never wanted a double, I never did marching corps-style drumming before doing the movie. It’s something we trained for 6 hours a day, for 2 to 3 months.

Q: Did you drum much on your own previous to that?

A: I had a standard kit, but never did marching band.

Q: What kind of drum kit do you have now?

A: Pearl, a concert set, with 13 pieces.

Q: One bass drum, or two?

A: Just one, but with a double-kick pedal.

Q: Who are three of your favorite drummers?

A: Oh, man! That’s a tough one. I’ll go all the way back to Buddy Rich and Max Roach. And Questlove.

Q: You’re a jazz fan!

A: Jazz drumming is amazing, when you think about the timing and all that stuff. I’m also trying to think of one of my favorite break-beat drummers.

Q: Like, say, (James Brown band drum dynamos) Jabo Starks or Clyde Stubblefield?

A: Yeah! And Metallica. Give me some Lars!

Q: Got a favorite drummer joke?

A: How can you tell a drummer’s knocking at the door? They always speed up.

Source: DiscoverSD