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In the summer of 2008 I was hired as a producer for an MTV reality show called 50 Cent: The Money and the Power. For eight, shit-hot weeks we were stuck in a un-air conditioned Brooklyn warehouse that served as the set. Our hotel had rats. The catering company served brisket every day. We worked 100-hours a week.
In the end, the show did not rate well and the experience counts as one of the more difficult of my career.
One of the few bright spots in the ordeal was the opportunity to meet and work with a cast member known as Cornbreadd. Cornbreadd came to the show as a self-promoted, homemade writer, actor, and rap artist from Houston.
Cornbreadd was older than the other cast members and seemed way savvier than any of them. He had a suitcase full of iron-on letters to make t-shirts for every new episode he was in and we often did not understand what he was talking about.
We liked him right away.
We soon found out that there was another side to the guy who had racked up millions of YouTube views for his video, Lookin’ Ass Nigga (Houston Version). It was a side that was a licensed realtor from Houston named Maurice Duhon. Maurice was successful, drove a sensible vehicle, and loved his mom.
Then we were intrigued.
I must admit that I pulled for him throughout the entire production. Unfortunately, Cornbreadd was eliminated from competition just one week short of the finale for reasons I have purposefully banished from my memory.
Recently, I heard that Mr. Duhon had announced his candidacy for Congress. I thought it’d be a good time to catch up with him.
MM: It’s been a few years since we worked together on the show. What a crazy experience, eh?
CB: I’ve got what they call tunnel vision creatively, so I just get lost in the whole experience of life. It was funny, you know, a lot of (the cast members) were going through this Hollywood potential like, you know, as if they’re going to be famous and all this stuff, and for me I learned more as an observer.
MM: Well, you were a fair bit older than most of your fellow contestants.
A: Yeah. But luckily I got a baby face and, man, we can market it. I did hear someone on the show say, “I don’t want to go home.” And I remember saying to myself, “Shit, I can’t wait to get home and sell these Cornbreadd t-shirts and book these shows and share this music. I’m motivated. I can do a hundred things at once.”
MM: And that’s what you did, right? You blew it up.
CB: I wrote a screenplay, finished up with that rapping stuff, man, made a big impact. Now we’re sitting at three million viewers for that viral video I did and I had this epiphany where I was about to escape to Amsterdam. I’d like to vacation to a lot of places, but the Ukraine? I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Do you know what I mean?
MM: Not really.
CB: I’ll go to Cuba, you know. I’ll go on a guided tour to North Korea right now, you know, and I’ll behave.
CB: I said, “Man I can go to Amsterdam and perform and do that and they’ll eat it up, man, and I’ll escape the economy. I’ll escape this political stalemate that’s going on.” Because all the while this is going on I was heavily politically aware.
MM: Ah, I see.
CB: I was also a delegate at the Texas State Democratic Convention in 2008. So, you had a hip-hop guy who was also a professional, and doing a political thing, and as Cornbread went through his stuff, man, the political side of myself was turning very pessimistic and cynical.
I had to take a break as an artist to focus myself on what really is going on. Plus, what’s the point in me making awesome music to buy at $16.99 when no one has the $16.99 to purchase it for?
MM: Good point. Why do you spell your name with two “D’s?”
CB: Cornbread, of course, is a double dose. It wasn’t just a guy that was rapping. It was a guy that was rapping good. A guy that was rapping with integrity, a guy that was Shakespearian in his vulgarity. Shakespearian vulgarity is what Cornbread was able to achieve.
MM: So you’re saying I could get a double dose of Shakespearian vulgarity if need be?
CB: Everything. Whatever you need…I’m not just spitting you out some half-assed effort. You’re going to get what you asked for or you’re going to get something you didn’t know you wanted and you’re going to get a double dose of it. Cornbreadd was a double D. He was a yellow rapper, man. He went good with everything, you know.
What goes good with cornbread? A lot of cabbage, you know. Cabbage is money. I was a cast iron skillet of the underground potential. It was a one-man show. It was a grassroots marketing campaign that caught on and it went to MTV.
MM: Now you’re running for Congress in Houston, Texas as Maurice Duhon. What’s the story with this?
CB: Yeah. We are running as an independent candidate. The congressional 18th District of Houston, located in Houston. I’m recognized by the Federal Election Commission. And I, and as a licensed realtor, I’ll tell you I am overqualified to run as a candidate for the district 18 congressional seat…
MM: I’m sorry for laughing but did you just say that, as a licensed realtor, you are over-qualified to run for Congress?
CB: If our conversation is about competency, I refer you to the Texas Real Estate Commission. If our conversation is about knowledge of what’s going on in the streets of our cities, I would refer you to my art career.
I see no reason to be afraid to step up as a candidate. It takes an artist to be able to take the bad and make it tolerable. That’s how legislation gets moved because there are a lot of bad things going on legislatively in Washington. And once the artist doesn’t want to have any say politically or legislatively, then the people are at the will of tyranny and deep shit like that.
MM: Right. What was the crappiest part of being a reality show contestant?
CB: Realizing that I was in a scientific experiment that would be put on display for people’s enjoyment and realizing how deep what I was really doing was. That was the worst moment because the innocence of the project left for me.
We were all in the van coming from the airport and we were instructed not to talk, of course, because, you know, Matt Mays and the staff wants us to feel like we don’t know each other, so how dare we talk?
I was fascinated like, “Yo. Mays comes to work and fucking watches a lab rat experiment and gets paid for it and applies his journalistic shit to it. “ You know, it’s like, “Mays is a journalist for a made-up reality. This is fascinating.”
MM: I’m sorry I contributed to your worst moment.
CB: Three episodes in I said, “Oh, the game of life. Oh, this reality show that I’m on, psychologically, is really just the game of life. How do I win the game of life? Ah, man, I’ve got to manipulate situations. I’ve got to control the outcome of situations. I’ve got to change destiny of the situation. I have to become a controlling factor in this household and I was able to do that.
MM: Seems like being a reality show contestant isn’t too different from running for office.
CB: Fascinating stuff. You know, you had us shoveling horse manure. That was one of the first episodes. And remember shoveling all this horse manure and I told the whole team, man, you all just take the shit that I give you and carry it because I promise you I’m going to shovel all of this shit out for you. You just discard the shit somewhere and we’ll be in a shitless situation. Okay? Which is what maybe I’m trying to do politically for people.
And I remember shoveling eight hundred pounds of dookie by myself and I was like, “Hey, man, this is awesome.” I’m practicing what I preached in life. I just wish I would have done more of an Italian accent and gelled my hair up. Maybe I could have been – what’s the newest guy on Jersey Shores? (Laughs) Oh, man, MTV, you – you pragmatic devil, you.
MM: You finished in third place on the show. Do you think you got hosed?
CB: No. No. We were number one. I never went on the show for the money. I forgot that there was money available at the end of the show.
MM: A hundred grand? How do you forget about a hundred grand?
CB: Man, I stepped in as an artist. I went to MTV and gave them 24 hours of that manifested artist, character, um, at that reality. I gave them 24-hour access to it. Cornbreadd is not a comedic figure. This guy was suave, full of pain, full of vision, full of artistic vulgar. He had a grasp on the satirical point of urban America but he wasn’t a refined man in the arts of comedy and gesture. He was a machine.
MM: Fair enough but you could be a funny motherfucker whether you meant to be or not.
CB: I can see that. Maurice Duhon is much more of a fun person to meet than Cornbreadd. Cornbreadd gets his humor from Maurice Duhon. I contractually sent Cornbreadd there. Maurice Duhon was not there.
MM: Now that you are a candidate is Cornbreadd officially retired?
CB: Let me tell you this – and I hate to be so serious, but I don’t really. If this is the land of opportunity and I have an opportunity to run for Congress. Let’s do it. Cornbread is… was a realistic part of creativity and it’s on the shelf right now to talk about what’s really going on in America. It’s a novel and as an author when I choose to pick it back up, if I choose to, that’s awesome. But it will be for the merit of art. Right now as a person, I’ve got a much greater focus.
I was a lot of people through my art. I would expect my elected representative to be as many people as we need them to be. And that’s why I’m running because I can be 99 people and I can bring a voice to Washington that’s rational, logical with elements of fun and scenes of grander.
MM: Sure. Hey, you remember that time you got in a fight with Precious in the strip club?
CB: Reality TV loves conflicts. I’ll get a conflict going. Got to give it to them.
MM: That was awesome.
CB: I was pleading and she refused and my only retort could be, “Let me create a noise that is equal to her’s and we can both agree to be cockophonic for a moment. What you are witnessing there is reality TV cockophonory. That is my copyright: “Cockophonory.”
MM: Whose copyright? Maurice or Cornbreadd?
CB: That’s compliments of Maurice Edward Duhon, Jr., Library of Congress.
MM: It’s been great to talk to you. Best of luck.
CB: Aw, man, you’re a friend more than an associate. I’m glad.
MM: Word up.