Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN chop up game with rapper-turned-producer and executive Hitmaka. Born and bred in Chicago, the artist formerly known as Yung Berg, got his start in the game by signing with DMX’s Def Jam imprint, Bloodline Records, as Iceberg during the early aughts. After that situation failed to lead to an album release or substantial success, Hitmaka broke out on his own and gained traction with his 2007 single “Sexy Lady,” which became one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year. Earning a label deal with Epic Records, he released his debut as Yung Berg, Almost Famous: The Sexy Lady EP, later that year, which was followed by his full-length debut, Look What You Made Me, in 2008.
Padding his resume with two additional hits, the Ray J-assisted smash “Sexy Can I,” and “The Business,” the producer established himself as a hitmaker. But, controversy quickly derailed his career and diminished some of his star power. Spending the next few years working behind the scenes, he reemerged as Hitmaka and produced tracks for the hottest acts in the game including Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, and many more. Currently the vice president of A&R at Atlantic Records, Hitmaka’s career has come full circle.
To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Hitmaka “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On Meeting Aaliyah At A Video Shoot
Hitmaka’s ascent up the charts began during the latter half of the aughts. However, his career dates back years earlier, which explains his reasoning for getting a tattoo of Aaliyah, whom he met in 2000. “I was with these guys called L.E.P and they’re from Chicago and they were the biggest street niggas in Chicago at the time,” he explains. “So, I had a big bidding war going on, they took me to L.A., some guy in the crew knew a guy that was DMX’s stylist at the time. It was at ‘What These Bitches Want From A Nigga’ video shoot. So, I came there and I remember this shit like it was yesterday, I go to the Paramount lot that’s in Hollywood. It was a two-day shoot. I met Drag-On, Aaliyah was there. That’s why I got Aaliyah tatted on me. It was a crazy, crazy time.”
2. On Getting Signed To DMX
Hitmaka’s first record deal came after being introduced to DMX, who was so impressed by the teenage rapper’s lyricism that he tapped him to become a flagship artist on his imprint. “I went and met DMX for the first time and they were like, ‘DMX, this is the young guy we were telling you about,’” the producer shares. “And he was like ’Ayo, shorty, I’m finna go do this, I’ll get back to you after I do this’ and then he opened his hand and he had a bunch of bud in his hand. A bunch of weed. And he’s like, ‘I’ll get back to you after I do this.’ So, we there and he goes to smoke his weed and they’re like, ‘Okay, you can come in the trailer now. So X is in the trailer, X is on top of the world at this time...he had the bitches in the trailer, I think man was getting massages, his feet rubbed at the same time, smoking a blunt, all type of shit. So, the nigga X was like, ‘So go ahead, shorty, and spit some shit for me.’ I did this long, drawn-out verse and DMX was like, ‘Shorty... I don’t understand one fucking word you just said.’ And then I spit another rap and he was like, ‘Yo, your amazing.’ He was like, ‘I fuck with you, I’ma vibe with your shit.’ The next day, I come back to the video ‘cause it’s a two-day shoot, three-day shoot type of shit. I come to the video, DMX blasting my demo out of his trailer now, the shit is going crazy. I’m sitting there and Kevin Liles walks up to me like, ‘You ready for your life to be changed?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah.’”
3. On DMX Stealing His Girl From Him
Hitmaka reminisced about the time DMX got in the way of him losing his virginity by stealing a groupie from him in Canada. “I almost lost my virginity, but DMX stole my pussy,” the executive claims. “We’re in Toronto, Canada. I’m with him, he’s filming a movie with Steven Segal, Exit Wounds. We’re out there, we’re going crazy, X is on top of the world. So, we go to this club ‘cause you know X loves to play pool. So, he bout out this club and had bitches, we were the only niggas there, but it was full of bitches. So, X was like, ‘Yo, do you shorty, I like that lil’ look for you.’ I’m upstairs, this my first time finger-fucking a girl, I’m finger-banging a girl in the club, smelling it, scratch and sniff, getting my whole little vibe on. We get back to the hotel, we’re staying at the Sutton Place Hotel. So, X had the big penthouse suite. I don’t know for some reason ‘cause I’m an artist, he put me in the regular room right next to him...he drives like a madman, so he gets there before us. He go upstairs with his vibe or whatever, I guess his vibe didn’t work out. I stayed in the car for the rest, like Ali and all of the other people, to take me upstairs. So, I go upstairs, I’ll never forget it, I think it was me and PK. We go up, I get off the elevator or whatever, I got the girl with me. I’m talking about I’m literally putting the key inside the hotel door and X’s room opens, and he’s like [looks side to side]. The nigga’s like a dog for real, in real life. The nigga, he opens the door soon as I’m walking in ma, he’s like ‘Ay, ma, uhh.. I think you left your purse in my room.’ Mind you, we met these bitches at the club, you ain’t never been to his hotel, none of that shit. The bitch goes in DMX’s room and he took my first piece of pussy.”
4. On Getting His Breakthrough With “Sexy Lady”
Following his departure from Bloodline Records, Hitmaka found himself on the brink of obscurity as an artist, but managed to lift himself to stardom by the bootstraps by creating his first hit single, 2007’s “Sexy Lady.” “My manager at the time was my weed man,” the artist formerly known as Yung Berg recalls. “I moved in with my weed man and he became my manager on some real other shit. I was stealing out the pound everyday, I ain’t even gon’ lie. Then the worst thing is I stole my manager/weedman’s credit card and flew Billy to Los Angeles, and then we all became a team at that point. And then I had this record, “Sexy Lady” that I produced and I wrote, as well, and I was recording myself. I had to go press three and go run to the mic, and then record it. I did this whole song, it’s a two-track, it’s never been mixed, it’s never been mastered... It was the No. 1 song in L.A. and that’s how I got my first label deal as an artist and I was actually 20, 21...”
5. On Shaquille O’Neal Bailing Him Out Of Jail
Life as a celebrity comes with many twists and chance encounters, like having NBA legend and part-time sheriff Shaquille O’Neal bail you out of jail following a run-in with the law on the set of a video shoot, which Hitmaka experienced firsthand. “We at the video and we’re shooting the first shot of the day,” he recalls. “Me and Ray J in a Lamborghini, we’re smoking a blunt. I threw the roach out the car, the police that we’re keeping us safe picked up the roach outside the Lamborghini, smelled it, and locked my ass up immediately before the first shot of the day. I’m in jail, they’re shooting a video, I’m sick, these niggas trying to bring me bologna sandwiches and all types of shit, I’m like, ‘Nah.’ I’m Yung Berg, now niggas want me to rap for ‘em while I’m in jail. Next thing I know, they’re like, ‘Ward, come out, come out’ ‘cause my last name’s Ward. You’ll never believe this shit. Shaquillle O’Neal bails me out of prison while I was down here ‘cause you know Shaq’s a sheriff in L.A. or some shit like that.”
6. On His Fall Out With Teairra Mari
In addition to his newfound popularity as a producer and curator, Hitmaka’s public profile also rose with his appearance on the first season of “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood” in 2014. However, a revelation he made about a sexual encounter with cast-mate Teairra Mari at the season reunion made headlines and led to the end of their relationship. Hitmaka finally revealed on “Drink Champs” that the motivation behind making the statement was an attempt to help Ray J mend his own relationship with his future wife, Princess. “Basically, me and Ray J was really cool and we had created a lot of history as well with that record,” he says. “And we got on the show and Ray was having turmoil with his girl Princess at the time, and then Ray ended up doubling back and dealing with Teairra Mari... Ray was calling my phone, Wack 100, all these other niggas — shout out to Wack, we love you, whatever — and kind’ve like threatening me, pressing me a little over his chick, over Teairra Mari. But, she was setting it up the whole time, going back and I’m like, ‘Bro, why you pressing me, like, she just sucked my dick, bro. I ain’t go that crazy and he was like, ‘Oh for real? That’s perfect ‘cause I wanna get back with Princess, and at the end of the season, I kind [of] left with Teairra. So, on the reunion, you gotta tell ‘em she gave you top, so everything will make sense.’”
7. On Dealing With Public Scrutiny
Throughout his career, Hitmaka has been a magnet for controversy. However, he doesn’t take the comments personally. “I’m rich N.O.R.E., it don’t affect me at all,” he says. “Everybody done shitted on me, so now it’s just like it don’t even matter. I had to build it ‘cause I went through a lot of things. A lot of things I went through as Yung Berg wasn’t even my beef or my issues. I went through a bunch of turmoil, like, I literally grew up in front of the camera... Niggas can see the good, the bad, the ugly with me. So, it’s kinda like it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s about longevity, it’s about having a real career and it’s just about money, bro.”
8. On His Fling With Naturi Naughton
When asked to share one of the more memorable celebrities on his “hit list,” Hitmaka points to an encounter he had with “Power” actress and former 3LW member Naturi Naughton, who he met in L.A. during the early 2000s. “I ended up meeting the girls from 3LW, remember them? ...I’ll never forget this shit... She was living at some apartment complex or whatever, we were cool, it was at the Artstone. If anybody’s in L.A., you already know about the Artstone. That’s where all the artists used to live, it’s in North Hollywood or whatever. So, I go to her crib, they’re having a little party or whatever. It’s like all the 3LW girls and shit. We go home, we smash. I smash her, but I’m like, ‘There’s something in her pussy,’ when I thought about it. It felt like a mousetrap in her vagina and that’s the first time I learned about birth control, she had the IUD. Fucked me up, that was my first experiencing that. And I love you [Naturi], this is years ago. This is 20 years ago, this is many moons ago.”
9. On His Beef With Maino
His altercation with rapper Maino is an experience he considers a sobering moment from his ecstacy addiction. “I’m Yung Berg the artist, we’re in Atlanta and we got to the club this night. A situation had happened with me and Trick Trick already... so I had a chip on my shoulder. Me and Maino was cool, Maino was on the remix to my song “The Business,” Hitmaka said. “And from there, I went in the club and N.O.R.E., I was tripping... I performed, I was kissing women on stage... And I guess I felt a way about something. I kicked it off with Maino, I just was on some bullshit, I felt like he was trying to play me for some reason and he really wasn’t and I did some dumb shit. And from there, we had spoke and I talked to him after the whole incident... I think T.I. or somebody from Grand Hustle at the time had put me and Maino on the phone after the fact and we spoke, and I was just telling him my truth. Like, ‘Bro, I’m going through it, I’m in a wild space...’ And he was like, ‘Berg, I respect you, but I don’t like the people you’re hanging around. They don’t mean no good for you.’ Like he gave me some game and I was like, ‘I appreciate that, bro.’ And then, shit, when I hung up the phone, I’ll never forget, I was riding in my motherfucking Range Rover and he just started doing interviews and started talking about the incident.”