Nick Cannon can do it all. He’s an actor, rapper, DJ, writer, producer, director and host of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. He can now add USO tour veteran to his resume.
Cannon and his Power 106 N’Credible Tour co-stars teamed up with the USO to entertain troops and families based in Germany and Kuwait this spring, playing all-star basketball games against troops, heating up the stage with musical performances and visiting wounded warriors at Germany’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
While Cannon’s team walked away from the tour undefeated, the star of MTV’s Wild ’N Out was impressed by the competition’s fitness.
“A little game of basketball was nothing for these service men and women,” he said.
Cannon—on his first USO tour—was joined by radio personalities Big Boy and DJ E-man, rapper Baby Bash, actors Arlen Escarpeta and NaNa, professional athlete and dunk specialist AirDogg and music mixologist DJ Thirty Two. R&B singer Kristinia DeBarge and musical acts 4Count and PWD delivered high-energy halftime shows that brought the crowds to their feet.
When they weren’t playing or performing, the Power 106 N’credible crew hung out with troops, eating with them in mess halls, playing ping-pong, taking pictures and signing autographs.
Cannon was honored to have the opportunity to spend time with troops stationed overseas. “Hanging out with the service men and women was outstanding,” he said. “To see people that are my age and younger who are protectors and heroes for our country … Just to be able to take their mind off of things and entertain them was a lot of fun.”
With a grandfather who served in the Navy and an aunt who’s a colonel in the Army, Cannon is no stranger to military service. “It’s something I feel connected to,” he said. “People always ask me, ‘if I wasn’t an entertainer, what would I have done?’ I probably would have joined the military.”
During his film career, Cannon has starred in few roles where he’s played a member of the armed forces. “I’ve been a soldier in a couple [of movies]. I’ve been a Marine and have had boot camp training at Camp Pendleton.”
While preparing for and playing those characters on film, Cannon was struck by the dedication and selflessness needed to serve one’s country.
“No matter what, you got to keep going,” he said. “It’s about building yourself up and building your self-esteem, building your body and exceeding any limitations.”
The idea that giving up is an option “goes away once you become part of the military.”
Cannon didn’t receive any tips from other celebrities before embarking on his first USO tour but said some of his industry friends admired him for going overseas to support American troops and their families. The TV star was more humble.
“[The tour] was the least that I could do. They’re protecting and serving us, so the least I could do is go over there and entertain.”
The Power 106 N’Credible crew had some USO tour vets among their ranks. Big Boy and DJ E-man lifted troops’ spirits in Kuwait and Iraq in 2008 and 2010 and were joined by Baby Bash during their first visit to the region. For the remainder of the group, the trip to Germany and Kuwait was their first USO experience.
Cannon said the tour, which included stops at Camps Buehring and Virginia in Kuwait, was one “of the most fascinating experiences I’ve had.” For a man who’s the host of a top-rated TV show and married to Mariah Carey—one of the most successful music artists of all time—that’s saying a lot.
“I didn’t even see [the USO tour] as any kind of duty. I saw it as a privilege.”
The time he spent with troops stationed overseas seems to have left a lasting impression. “It was like hanging out with your friends, but these are the people that are protecting our country,” said Cannon. “I have so much admiration for them.”
When asked if he’d team up with the USO for a future tour, he said he was looking forward to the opportunity. “Absolutely! I can’t wait to go back!”
If he makes a return trip overseas, Cannon plans to extend his squad’s three-game winning streak. “We’re coming back to win again next year,” he joked. “Tell [the troops] to keep practicing their jump shot.”
Chad Stewart is the senior editor of ON★PATROL.
Joseph Andrew Lee is a USO staff writer.