Following the lead of hip-hop’s warm embrace of comedy – from rappers’ enthusiastic references of bits from comics like Eddie Murphy, Katt Williams and Kevin Hart, to hip-hop/comedy fusion shows like Def Comedy Jam – Nick Cannon capitalized on the early 2000s with his hilarious live battle show Wild’ n Out. The show, which ran from 2005-2009 on MTV, was a staple for hip-hop audiences, in large part because of special guest appearances by the game’s biggest rappers, who would come on to freestyle battle and show off their comedy chops before performing for the studio audience at the end of the show. It was always a party, but after four years on the air, Cannon hung up the comedy mic for endeavors like America’s Got Talent and his radio show on 92.3 NOW.
Now, after a five-year hiatus, the always-busy Cannon has partnered with the more youth-centric MTV2 network to bring back Wild’ n Out, but this time, it’ll be a bit different. In watching the first few episodes, it’s clear that the new season will be a bit edgier and more in-your-face, but don’t get us wrong – it still looks as fun as ever.
In anticipation of the July 9th premiere of the new season, XXL has partnered with MTV2 to bring you a series of interviews with standout cast-members from the show. For our first installment, we spoke to former New York battle rapper Conceited, who was hand-picked for the show after Cannon watched his battle rap videos. In a phone conversation with Conceited (who was in Miami at the time), he told us a about his unlikely chemistry with the cast, feeling like a real actor and the segment he knows he’ll get clowned for at his next rap battle.
XXL: Tell me about your experience on the show.
Conceited: The show was nothing like anything I’d ever done. I’m used to doing a battle in front of a bunch of people, but with this experience I felt like a real actor. I did the make-up, the wardrobe, the hair, commercial breaks.
Aside from guest rappers, the majority of the show’s cast is comedians. As a battle rapper, did you feel like you fit in with everybody?
The whole cast was all cool right off the bat, but at first I was like, “I have no idea what’s going on here. I don’t know how I’m going to fit into this.” At first I was petrified. Like, “I rap. These are comedians. I don’t know how this is going to end up working.” Until…we finally hit the stage and the Wild Style part (where cast members rap punchlines) happened, I just felt right at home. This is what I do. So all the jitters and the worries about not fitting in just went right out the door.
Since you came up through battle rapping, which is an underground scene, did you feel like if you went on this show some people who knew you from the battle rap days would make fun of you or say you sold out?
If this was about two years ago, I would say yes. That’s what they all would’ve said. But now, they all see the bigger picture. The whole point of battling is to get to a higher stone than wherever you’re at now, whether it’s music or movies. But before they would’ve been like, “Yo, he sellin’ out, he’s goin’ commercial,” because that’s how we looked at 106 & Park. We would look at 106 as a step back, even though it’s on national TV. But since this show isn’t a battle rap-based show, people took it like, “Cool.”
Were there specific moments on the show that you know other battle rappers are going to clown you for?
Oh yeah, definitely. We did this R&B segment, where we would take a prop that somebody in the crowd had and turn it into an R&B song. But, we had to put on these sequin jackets and start singing. I already know, at my next battle they’re going to cook up something crazy about that.
So you’re going to keep battling after the show?
The original plan was not to, hoping that the show would be that much of a success so that I wouldn’t have to anymore. But, even if that was the case, I know I’d still come back every now and then because it’s something that I just can’t leave alone. It’s like once you give that pit bull that raw piece of steak and they taste blood, that’s the way it is with battles. You can go away for a minute, but once you watch one, you’re like, “Man, I would love to devour him. I’d kill him.”
How long have you been battling?
My first battle was in ’09.
How did MTV2′s casting agents find you?
A friend of mine had made a website for me, and there’s a booking e-mail on there. He’s the one that handles the site, and one day he called me and was like, “Yo, I just got an e-mail saying that Nick Cannon wants you on Wild’N Out.” I was like, “Word? You sure? Is it official?” He was sure, then he told me Nick Cannon was following me on Twitter, and I didn’t even know that. So I checked, and it said Nick Cannon was following me. Then the next day, I had the battle, and the day after that was the scheduled try-out. As I walked inside, Nick Cannon was like, “Yo, what’s up? What happened with the battle?” I was like, “Damn, this dude is really on it.” From that point on, I knew that he was an avid battle watcher, because he was talking about all these battles he saw me in, and quoting all these lines he liked. He’s really on his shit.
How’s it been working with Nick, personally?
It’s cool. He treats everybody with the most sincerity ever. He’s really a good dude. He genuinely wants everybody to shine. He really wants to help everybody to the maximum that he actually can, and you don’t find too many dudes like that. Anything he can do to help, he’ll do it.