Nick Cannon’s Teenage Dreams

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Like Mr. Cannon’s efforts as an actor, which trailed off into supporting roles and small independent films after the 2005 fizzle of Underclassman, a movie he wrote, Mr. Cannon’s efforts as a recording artist have been on hold since the mid-2000s. But he appears to be revving up to re-enter the fray. He recently released a single, entitled “Famous.” In the video, Mr. Cannon appears in one of those “BITCH I’M FAMOUS” T-shirts and parodies stars like Michael Jackson and MC Hammer. (Sample lyric: “Lights, stars, money, cars / When this beat drop let them know who you are.”)

“We have a lot of other stuff coming down the pipeline,” he promised. “I never really left the music industry. I just was behind the scenes doing other stuff. So now we have this single on TeenNick and MTV—it’s one of those things I do because I love it.”
Ms. Osbourne said she had tried to get Mr. Cannon to quit his drive-time radio show to free up some of his time. “He loves it too much!”

She added: “He’s so much into pop culture, with youth, and TV, and film, and cartoons: he’s into everything. He’s going to be one of the next great billionaire entrepreneurs.”

One of Mr. Cannon’s signature achievements at TeenNick, he and others said, is spearheading the network’s annual HALO Awards, which honor young viewers for their charitable endeavors. (Last year’s winners included a high school senior who used Twitter to help Haitian earthquake victims find their families and the young president of a foster youth advocacy organization.) “It kind of just helps it build an identity,” Mr. Cannon said. The goal, he explained, was to make a statement about what TeenNick represented. “A socially aware, socially conscious, young-minded kid or teenager is who we look to gear towards,” he said.

TeenNick has made still more of a splash, though, with the launch of “The ’90s Are All That,” a programming block of Clinton-era Nickelodeon programs aimed at a slightly older viewer, the nostalgic 20-something, including reruns of Kenan and Kel (on which Mr. Cannon was credited as a writer), All That (on which he starred), Doug and Clarissa Explains It All. The idea was an instant hit: on the first night, TeenNick had four of the top 10 programs among 12 to 24-year-olds in the midnight-to-2 a.m. time period. Overall, the network saw a rise in total viewership of 114 percent from the previous year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Perhaps more important, the repackaging of this archival material sparked a frenzy on Twitter and Facebook.

Credit for the coup is hard to assign. According to Mr. Cannon, he has been pushing the idea since starting his new job. “It was one of the first things I talked about,” he said. “It was probably more of a sell for myself—like, people love that! On Twitter, all the time, people were like, ‘Bring back All That! Bring back Kenan and Kel!’”

Mr. Dawkins, however, suggested that the idea had other origins. “The late-night block was an idea independent of Nick,” he said. “That was about the audience speaking out in volume, 15 million strong: ‘Bring our Nickelodeon back!’ We were hearing that out there on Facebook, Twitter, video-based sites. And then there’s a bunch of 20-somethings who reflect that audience who work here now, and they presented us executives the same idea.”

Mr. Cannon, he said, was helpful as a sounding board: “I asked him what it was like, what was the audience feedback,” he recalled. “I showed him the spots. I wanted to hear from anyone who was part of that journey.”

Nick Cannon’s Teenage Dreams