Over the past several years, Chicago rapper Yung Berg has released chart-topping and radio-friendly hits like “Sexy Lady,” “Do That There,” “Sexy Can I,” and “The Business.” Yet to many in Hip-Hop, those records just so happen to be by the same guy who was caught up in some of the Internet and tabloids' biggest stories about chain-snatchings, beat downs, and arrests. Berg has had time to look back on the things that may or may not have happened as life lessons on what to not do when you're riding high on the wave of success. More importantly, he's learning not to let the negativity of others bring him down.
Last month, on his 25th birthday, Berg officially launched Young Fly Movement Productions and announced his signing of two artists: female singer Mia Rey and rapper Driicky Graham. AllHipHop.com recently spent some time with Berg as he prepares to take the music world by storm once again. However, before letting the spotlight shine on himself as a solo artist, he's preparing to wear the mogul hat and carve out a new path within the music industry. When all is said and done, Berg wants to put the past behind him and move forward to the next chapter of his life - making great music for himself and his new family of artists and producers.
AllHipHop.com: What’s going on, Yung Berg?
Yung Berg: Not much, man...just writing right now in the studio, working on some new music.
AllHipHop.com: Before we get into the real topics at hand, briefly tell me a little about your first deal with DMX’s Bloodline Records.
Yung Berg: Well, actually, I was like 14 years old [then], and my rap name used to be Ice Berg. I met DMX on the set of the “What These B*tches Want” music video shoot. I walked up to him and was like, “Yo, I want to spit for you, X,” and at that time I was a little little n*gga, I was like 4’4”. X was like “rap for my n*ggas, and they gon’ let me know if you can f*ck with the dog.” So his n*ggas that I ended up rapping for were two influential people in the music business right now - DJ LS One and also the legendary Swizz Beatz.
I came with this super fast rap, and Swizz and everyone went crazy because they were like “damn this n*gga's 14 and can rap this fast.” So they told me to chill and wait for X to be done with his shots for the video, and when he got to his trailer, Swizz told me to spit that same rap for X. He came back and said, “I'ma be real with you. I’m going to sign you. I want you to be on my label. It’s not gonna happen real quick, it’s not gonna happen tomorrow, but I'ma sign you." Six months later down the line, I got that call, and I was the first artist signed to DMX’s record label off Def Jam. The rest is really history.
AllHipHop.com: Do you still have any relationship with DMX or Swizz Beatz?
Yung Berg: Yeah, as far as Swizz, we’re real cordial when we see each other and things of that nature. Like ultimately, my parents ended up pulling me out of my deal with DMX and shipping me off to boarding school and taking me out of that life cause I was really reckless at the time. I remember getting up with Eve - like Eve has been like a big mentor to me throughout my whole career. She’s like a big sister to me and really took me under her wing as a young artist. I was at Powerhouse Studios and battle-rapping with Cassidy and Larsiny and [Jada] Kiss and Styles and around the whole Ruff Ryder movement. So I’m cool and cordial with everybody. As far as DMX, I haven’t talked to him in like a year. He was in Arizona when I talked to him last, but when we talked, it was like no time had even passed. He was really proud of me and happy for me for doing my Yung Berg thing and wanted to get in the studio and make some music together.
AllHipHop.com: That’s an awesome story, man, and something I’m sure a lot of people don’t even know. Now that your starting the new chapter of your life, can you tell me about your new company, Young Fly Movement Productions?
Yung Berg: I was working with a couple of producers that I met and came up with and that I was able to do my hits with. Our relationships came to a strain because when I was going through personal things in my career, there were people starting to criticize me, or say different things about me. The people that I thought were in my corner and that I changed their lives and sold millions of records with, these people were no longer in my corner anymore. They thought it wasn’t a good look, and yet they were still with me, living at my house, and living off me, and I was still paying all the bills and feeding these people. But behind my back, they had their own intentions of what they wanted to do with their career and how they wanted to further it without Yung Berg being a part of it. At that point, I realized it and I moved to Miami, and I just really started focusing on myself and getting myself right. Just focusing on what I needed to do to really take things to the next level. From this I was able to sign six producers to Y.F.M., and I met them all on Twitter. So while we were making these moves behind the scenes, like we produced the record “John” for Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, we did the intro to Meek Mill’s mixtape, Dream Chasers, I was just like ‘I need to regroup.’
So, when I got to Miami, I just really prayed hard and really put my faith in God and said, ‘God, what you have for me, can’t no man take away from me, and I know that I’m going to continue to work hard and do my part, and you’ll let the blessings come my way as long as I show my dedication.’ So I stayed in Miami, put out countless mixtapes, and was able to find those producers, and then I ended up meeting my artist, Mia Rey. As far as my other artist, Driicky Graham, who’s a rapper, I took him out on a promo run with me in the Northeast region, and the girls were just really feeling him, you know what I mean? He would open up for me, and he was getting a good response, and I saw something there. The kid is like 18 years old, and it’s like when I was 18, I always felt like I wanted somebody that was a big brother figure that could help me with my craft, so that’s the role that I play in this situation.
AllHipHop.com: And, what was so significant to you about launching the company on your 25th birthday?
Yung Berg: I mean, I’m grown now. Like, when I really came into the game, I was 14 and now I’m 10 years plus in the game, so I’m grown now. I’ve been through things like during the DMX situation. I didn’t have a hit record so I wasn’t really exposed to those type of situations, but when I became Yung Berg, with all these different records I put out, with all the drama, I just grew up from that sh*t. I took it upon myself to really boss up, and I prayed about this for so long. God has put all these different components for me to create Y.F.M., and I’m going full-force with it. There’s no better time than 25.
AllHipHop.com: What can you tell me about the Young Fly Movement album that you plan on putting out with your artists?
Yung Berg: It’s going to be me, Mia Rey, and Driicky Graham primarily, but the first buzz single that we put out, “Shawty U Can Get It,” we recently shot the video for, it looks phenomenal. We had a real good time, and it just looks crazy. I also just dropped that “Real Life” video where I explain so many different situations that went on with me, so I felt like this new look with me and my artists was closing a chapter and this is re-opening it to getting back to the fun and really making the records that people know Berg for. I’m known for having radio records with big hooks, so I wanted to take it back to that element, and we kind of just threw the single out there and people started gravitating towards it. The compilation is done.
AllHipHop.com: Are there any other artists on the album besides yourself, Mia, and Driicky?
Yung Berg: I have three big ones. Two of them mean the world to me right now. Meek Mill and Trae the Truth are on a track called “Tomorrow,” and one is Raekwon on a record called “You Are.” I just really wrapped up the project so the recording is done, and now I’m in a process where I can sit back and listen to and live with the record and say, ‘I want to get this feature’ or ‘let’s reach out to this person,’ but those are the first three features that we have already.
AllHipHop.com: Is the compilation something that you’ll be putting out for free on the Internet, or will you be selling it in stores?
Yung Berg: To be honest with you, I got an offer or two available to do something similar to what Drake did with So Far Gone, where it went to iTunes and it went to stores, so that’s what we’re looking forward to. If I don’t put it in stores, then it’s going to be an exclusive release on iTunes. I just don’t want to do any deal; I want to do the right deal. This body of work is so special that I can’t put it out for free.
AllHipHop.com: On the records with Raekwon and Meek Mill, are you approaching the songs from a “real life” perspective, or the more upbeat, radio-friendly Yung Berg that the fans are used to?
Yung Berg: I switched a lot of different things up because “Real Life” is a record that I had had for like four months, and I never put it out 'cause I was afraid of the backlash to be totally honest. I feel like I’m the Floyd Mayweather of Hip-Hop. Even if I do good and I win, and I do something that’s really creative, I’m never going to get my fair shake on it. I felt like I had to put that closure on all of the sh*t I never really spoke on - the situations that may have or may not have happened. I’m not really like that. I’m from the Southside of Chicago where very few make it to even having an AllHipHop.com interview or having a hit record. I represent young people getting it in and taking it to the next level.
The joint with me and Raekwon is so crazy though. It’s actually a Nas sample from “Nas Is Like,” which was produced by DJ Premier. It’s a real deep record where I tell a story about everything that happened. When I put out “Real Life,” the response was like, ‘this is what I’ve been waiting for...this is the best record you’ve ever rapped in your life!’ I kind of took it as disrespect, like that’s really my best record? I’ve wrote songs for Diddy and all types of people, and this is the best record of my life? I think the people just gravitate and are able to really get in touch and in tune when you give them that.
AllHipHop.com: Did the positive response to “Real Life” make you reassess the kind of music that you wanted to make at all?
Yung Berg: Definitely! It f*cked me up because I used to be signed to DMX. Like I spit, I go h.a.m., I used to battle rap with Cassidy, I did it all. I admit that I wasn’t giving people that side of me, and you get to a point where you're caught in your own fame and your own records. I feel like right now, where I’m at, I have to give people the deeper side of me, and it really f*cked me up because now I’m sitting here with all these Hip-Hop and boom-bap beats, and I’m sitting down spilling my life story to it. I’m going to just put out a project and just go in and let people see the Hip-Hop side of me so people can respect me. That’s what I want. I don’t want people to respect me for being a street n*gga. I want respect for being the realest n*gga you ever met. I just want that respect musically.
AllHipHop.com: What about a new solo album from you? Have you gone that far ahead yet, or is all of your focus on Young Fly Movement?
Yung Berg: I’m going to let the Y.F.M. thing become a springboard for me and all my artists and let that be the platform. The Sony guys released me, thank God. Thank you to everybody at Sony. I’m a free agent not contractually tied to nobody. I don’t owe no one a dollar or a dime, so I’m able to walk away from that situation like, ‘yeah, I went through some bullsh*t, but ultimately I’m famous now for free. I don’t owe nobody sh*t.’ Now I’m on people’s radar. I’m really just trying to get my C.E.O. on and my boss on and really just make the right moods because a Yung Berg album, that sh*t is done. I got records with Roscoe Dash, I got records with Sean Kingston. I got a record called “Sexy Can I Pt. II” with Ray J right now, produced by Detail, the same dude that did the first one, and it’s literally a smash all over again. Me making music right now is really nothing, especially when I can just go and live in the studio and have constant hits coming out.
AllHipHop.com: So with mogul being added to your resume of rapper, writer, and producer, which career do you find yourself enjoying most?
Yung Berg: To be perfectly honest with you, it depends on the moment and what’s going on. When I’m at a show, and there’s 1,000 people and girls just all on you and I can be with anybody I want, then I enjoy being an artist in that moment [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: I would hope so.
Yung Berg: I think that all of the hats I wear happen at moments. When I cash in a deal for me and Mia, it’s going to be a moment for me as a boss seeing this whole thing from nothing and cultivating it and turning it into something.
AllHipHop.com: I got you. So now that you’re prepping for this big Y.F.M. launch, do you have a release date for that project yet?
Yung Berg: It’s going to drop before the end of this year. I wanted to put it out in November straight to iTunes, but like I said earlier, it depends what legs the situation grows, because I’m already getting a lot of interest from different people. So, if I take a deal to put it in stores, that may prolong it like two or three weeks.
AllHipHop.com: So the Y.F.M. album is ready, and your own solo stuff is good to go. What is one personal goal you could set for yourself in 2012 on top of what you may already have?
Yung Berg: My biggest goal for next year is to have hit records and to remain humble and to work with the A-listers in the game, whether it be me song-writing or me doing production work behind the scenes. Just staying afloat and focused. I think a lot of times, artists fall back and get jaded or caught up in things. I just want to be 100 percent ready and let God take the wheel, and just me really go h.a.m. next year and get back to where I want to be and beyond that.