To say Yung Berg has had growing pains would be the understatement of the decade. A historic string of Ls taken after the success of his 2007 hit “Sexy Lady” made it look as if the Chicago native’s legacy was doomed to permanent punch line status. But after spending the past few years laying low and collecting production and writing credits (Diddy’s Last Train to Paris, Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester’s new pop album), the 24-year-old is back with a new mixtape and a new perspective on the game. YB chopped it up with to share his thoughts on second chances, the difference between him and Lil B's controversy, and what he’s learned from Jim Jones and Rick Ross.—Calvin Stovall Tell me about your new mixtape, Mr. Ward?

Yung Berg: You know, I just wanted to grow up. A lot of people don’t understand that I got into this business— my first record, I was 15-years-old— so basically, I’ve just been growing up in front of the camera. And I know a lot of different things have been happening that’s newsworthy— headlines, bullshit, different scandals that’s been goin’ on through my life— but I want people to know, I’m a young kid. I’m 24-years-old now. I’m sure shit happened to you yesterday, you’re just not famous and it’s not WorldStar or MediaTakeout or all that other stuff. So, Mr. Ward is just the grown up version of Berg. My real name is Christian Ward, so I wanted people to understand that it’s just a different approach this time. It’s a more wiser, growner version of me.

XXL: What would you have to say to the audience who wrote you off because of your mistakes? Why should they forgive you?

YB: My thing is, I’m always into gaining new fans or maybe good people that’s maybe not supportive and letting ‘em know. At the end of the day, I’m just human. You know what I’m sayin’? I did things and I went through situations that may be crazy and may be publicized, but I’m questioning how many of those people go and buy a Yung Berg record anyway. So that’s why I never spoke on the situations and things of that nature, because I didn’t see that as me having to explain myself or anything. As far as the XXL readers, I just want them to know that I’m human, I've been through different things, but I’m focused and I’m staying down with this shit. You know what I’m sayin’? The good music is gonna prevail all. I make hit records. I know that things I’ve done or scandals I’ve been involved with have overshadowed some of my music to a point, but at the same token, right now I’m all the way focused. I’m 100% eyes on the prize, and I’m stayin' down with this shit. And I’m gonna make them a believer if they’re not a believer right now.

XXL: When you were making mistakes a few years ago, people thought you were trying to be controversial on purpose and it backfired. What do you think of someone like Lil B who’s taken that same approach but it’s worked for him?

YB: I worked with [Lil B] prior to the Lil B phenomenon. Like when Lil B was just poppin' and wasn’t really at the level that he is now. I reached out to Lil B. Me and Lil B have several records together. So, I was one of the first people to really reach out to B ‘cause I seen things with B and I knew that B was gonna be successful because of the two things that we were just talking about. The nigga stayed down, and he put out quality material. Whether you think that Based God is the best rapper in the world or whatever, you can’t fuckin’ hate on Based God because he flooded you. He put out so much fuckin’ content in such little time that shows you that he’s outworking niggas. Nigga went through that shit on the fuckin’ internet, his scandal shit, he got on there and he said, "I’m stayin’ down with this shit. I’m gonna do it regardless of what anybody says of me." That’s the homie. I think he does some crazy shit, like some off the wall shit or whatever, but that’s B. Let B do B. But at the end of the day, he’s another prime example of what I’m embarking on and what my journey is right now. It’s just stayin’ down with what you got goin’ and puttin’ out quality and puttin’ out material and they have to take notice after all that.

XXL: Word is you recently worked with Jim Jones?

YB: When I worked on Jim Jones’ album, he was like Berg, “I don’t think that people get it. You’re talented beyond belief, but I think that these situations that you go through stopping people from giving you that look and stopping people from acknowledging that talent.” He even stepped up to the plate and was like, "I would like to executive produce your new album so people can see and be aware that you have some type of street stamp and you’ve got people that’s riding for you so you can get your music out." And my thing is, if I’m convincing people like that I look up to, then I’m on to something and I’m on my way to get where I need to be.

XXL: So Jim Jones is Executive Producing your new album?

YB: It ain’t confirmed. He wants to. We’re in talks about that. But it ain’t confirmed, it ain’t etched on the dotted line. But it’s all a possibility. It’s something we spoke about at length… When I went to work with Jim on his new album Capo that’s coming out, me and him worked for four, five days. And it was crazy because I look up to Jim. Jim is a legend to me. He was on the “Sexy Lady (Remix)” but out relation wasn’t crazy like that.

XXL: Both of you and Rick Ross had a similar problem with credibility...

YB: I never really try to use nobody else’s situation to involve them with mine, but I look at Ross as a huge inspiration. He proved that good music triumphs everything… Ross, with all the shit that he went through, that shit inspired hope to people. Whether you was shittin’ on him, at that moment, I promise you when “B.M.F.” come on in the club, you’re wildin’ the fuck out right now. And Rick Ross did it the same way I’m doin’ it right now. And I’m gonna continue to move forward. That’s stayin’ down. You got to stay down, it don’t matter what comes in front of you. If this is what your passion is— which it is mine— you gotta stay down for your shit. And not only that, but just good fuckin' music. And now, you can’t even think about a hating remark to say about Rick Ross right now. And that’s the same approach [I’m taking].