Having Kanye West point you out in a crowd as your song knocks over the speakers at a trendy club would seem like your “Mama, I made it” moment. But for Chicago native Yung Berg, being recognized by ’Ye was just another “been there, done that” blip on his radar.
When Berg was 14, his former manager introduced him to DMX on the L.A. set of the “What These Bitches Want” video. After spittin’ some Twista-like rhymes, the teen dropped out of school and signed to X’s Bloodline Records two months later. By 2001, Berg moved to New Jersey to record material for the label. Six months later, however, his parents shipped him away to boarding school in Montana.
“I couldn’t listen to radio. I couldn’t watch TV,” says Berg. “I didn’t know 9/11 happened. I didn’t know Jay-Z and Nas were beefing. I was just stripped of everything. That’s how I lost my deal.”
In 2002, Berg left the facility and relocated to Hollywood to work with Eve, who he had met through X. From there, he bounced around from camp to camp, working as Shawnna’s hype man for a short time (she grew up with his older brother) and later recording with Erick Sermon in New York.
Despite all his connections, none of the situations panned out, so Berg moved back to L.A. and launched his Yung Boss crew with producers JFK and Rob Holiday. Together they orchestrated Berg’s debut, Look What You Made Me, including the horn-laden hit “Sexy Lady.” With a boatload of features on his LP—from Fabolous to Collie Buddz to Jim Jones—Berg, who has since slowed his rhymes down to a Nas-like pace, is now in complete control.
“We setting a new standard for what’s accepted for new rap cats,” says the 21-year-old. “If you don’t write your own music and you’re not involved in your production, then you’re not really an artist. I call these cats ‘Barbie dolls.’ You can put clothes on them and dress them up, but they not the real thing.”