Yung Berg tends to get a bad rap. It’s not that the Chicago native isn’t technically sound, but perception is everything. After his pop-rap single “Sexy Lady” became a summer ’07 favorite, Berg was regarded as a mere bubblegum rapper. With a debut album on deck and another pop single (his and Ray J’s “Sexy Can I”) heating up airwaves, Yung Berg calls in DJ Green Lantern and The Empire to help prove his worth as an MC on Yung Boss or Die, Vol. 1.

Berg pleads his case on the aggressively paced “How You Do That,” spittin’, “Ain’t shit funny/A nigga doin’ songs with Ray, so make way for the little-kid money.” He’s even more convincing stuntin’ harder alongside Lil Wayne and Brisco on “Bitch Please.” But it’s the Fabolous-assisted “First Time” where the Chi-Town rapper shows his true appeal, lacing the sparsely laid drum track with tightly packed bars like, “I know you see it like J-O-C/100 thou worth of bling, no J-O-B… I just make sure my money’s right and they won’t eat/’Cause I strengthen up my birds like KFC.”

Despite his lyrical swagger, Yung Boss just can’t leave the ladies alone. Hooking up with Ray J once again, for the sultry “Exotic Pt. 2,” the duo take listeners on a rendezvous to Puerto Rico, where they lament over Latin lovelies. Berg gets redundant, covering similar ground with Sean Kingston on the Caribbean-tinged “Take You There (Remix).”

Outside of women and money, Berg doesn’t vary much verbally. The ill-fated “Dope Boy” finds the rapper tirelessly gushing over his cars and diamonds, while the repetitive “Gettin to That Money” offers more of the same. Yung Boss or Die contains some impressive wordplay, but with Yung Berg’s limited topical scope, the verdict is still out on his status as a rapper’s rapper.---Rob Markman