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Nick Cannon always seems like he’s having a good time.

On a balmy afternoon near Battery Park in Manhattan, Cannon is laughing and joking with a photographer about his suit while acknowledging that he has less than two hours to get to JFK Airport to make his 7 p.m. flight. “We’ll be a’ight,” he says confidently. That scenario and his reaction are quintessentially Cannon: a sense of urgency without seeming too worried about anything. For a guy who came into the game with big dreams that he managed to fully realize, the ability to stay focused without getting flustered has been a hallmark of his career and life up to this point.

The personality, comedian, rapper, actor and philanthropist emerged in the early 2000s as an ambitious and likable Nickelodeon star and after more than a decade, he’s parlayed that affable persona into a multimedia empire. All the while, Cannon took shots from outsiders who felt that he wasn’t “edgy” enough to appeal to anyone other than preteens.

“I laughed at it,” Cannon says of the early criticisms. “I couldn’t care less what people say about me this week or next week. I’m trying to build a 50-year career. [People] like Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr. — I know people had things to say [about them] at that moment, but when you step back and look and see what these people did to affect culture — that’s my goal.”

And Cannon points out that, while he has nothing to prove, his early life was no Huxtable-ish fairy tale. “I grew up in the ’hood, I could tell you every thug story that you would wanna hear,” he says. “But what is that going to prove?”

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Stereo Williams

Todd "Stereo" Williams, entertainment writer based in New York City. He co-founded Thirty 2 Oh 1 Productions, an indie film company.

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