Nick Cannon keeps it real. February of last year proved that. The veteran entertainer hosted America’s Got Talent for eight seasons. However, creative differences forced a split. During one of his stand-up specials, Cannon made some jokes of which NBC executives did not approve. This man called it like he saw it, commenting on their corporate restrictions. He didn’t feel free. Following a termination threat, he released a hearty statement on Facebook. His conclusion sticks with me. “There is no amount of money worth my dignity or my integrity.” I couldn’t agree more. Speaking of money: Nick’s got plenty. He never needed their hand-out anyway. Whether it’s comedy, television, movies, radio or rap, Nick Cannon does it all. He manages other talent too, such as Kehlani and Amber Rose. Although I am not familiar with his most recent album White People Party Music, he’s a fixture of my childhood.
One of my favorite songs from back in the day is Nick Cannon’s “Gigolo,” featuring should-be-prisoner R. Kelly. (I’m a fan, but wow this is inexcusable.) Don’t knock the rapper. In 2003, getting Kellz on a track was a huge deal. The remix to “Ignition” speaks for itself. Fast forward 16 years and Cannon has something new for his fans. His debut extended play Calling All Models is his first full-length since April Fools 2014. It serves as a prelude to his album “Model Music” coming later this fall. I didn’t quite know what to expect going into this. Nick blends R&B and rap while showing his hopeless romantic side. Each track here relates to some kind of phone call. Some hit, and some miss. “Hold My Calls” was an early surprise. Smooth, bouncy production propels this 90’s R&B-inspired fusion track. Cannon holds his own as well.
Additionally, “Motivational Call” towards the back end impressed me. No lie, I didn’t see this one coming at all. It is Calling All Models’ centerpiece. Nick tries his hand at spoken word and pulls it off with flair. The minimal offering includes an authentic verse and sturdy outro vocals. It sets an immediate goal, uplift listeners through transparent perception, without feeling forced. Although music functions more as a hobby for Cannon, this project indeed contains evident flaws. Competent vocal performances are hard to come by here. While I don’t expect perfection, I do ask for purpose-driven deliveries. More often than not the versatile entertainer sounds timid to experiment with his voice. Nick’s reserved approach keeps these songs’ potential mostly at bay. He struggles to produce compelling material across 40 minutes of music. This EP needed only five songs, like the repeating digit of every movie phone number. Just a thought.
Other than its run-of-the-mill songwriting, this prelude ain’t half bad. Cannon pays homage to Usher and Kanye West with respective covers. “You Don’t Have to Call” starts off decent. Despite enjoying this callback, I couldn’t help but to wish Nick’s version had some type of personal touch. Usher’s voice on his 2001 single is effortless. Conversely, Cannon’s version simply reminded me he wasn’t Ush. It’s not fair to compare yet this cover does the original little justice. The EP’s closer “Last Call,” sampling West’s closer from his College Dropout album, is over 16 minutes long. In that sense, it stays true to Kanye’s lengthy story of signing to Roc-A-Fella. Here Cannon lists off nostalgia-laced romances of yesteryear. Due to its length, it is difficult to sit through. But I’m sure he had fun recording it, so that’s what truly matters. Though imperfect, Calling All Models delivers a serviceable precedent experience.