Jook Lives: Ice Billion Berg Discusses DJ Khaled’s ‘To The Max’ And Surprise Mixtape, ‘Real Is Rare’

Ice Billion Berg, formerly known as IceBerg, is having a moment. After DJ Khaled put Miami’s jook music on the map in his latest song “To The Max” featuring Drake, the world is getting a taste of the sound that Berg helped bring to the music scene.

Luckily, the Miami rhymer never strayed too far from the spotlight since he released the popular jook song “Stick Drill” back in the late 2000s. Since then, Berg consistently dropped mixtapes including two surprise projects for his day ones, Reserved For The Real and Real is Rare, that were released within two weeks of each other.

READ: Intro To Jookin’: 12 Miami Songs That Influenced DJ Khaled’s “To The Max”

The latter eight-song project arrived on Friday (June 9), and enlists Miami up-and-comers like Twelve’Len, Bushy B, Ronnie V.O.P, and Ferrari Fred. There’s also production credits from North Lauderdale producer JayO, whose beat from “Gus Get Em Right” was used for DJ Khaled’s track.

Now, as Berg’s hustle is about to pay off — in part to Khaled creating a prime opportunity for him to jump on the new jook wave — he’s set to head to Denver to meditate on his next moves — and take advantage of their medical marijuana laws.

Ahead of his weedcation, VIBE chatted with Ice Billion Berg to talk about surprising his fans, the importance of being yourself in the rap game and why he’s supporting Khaled “to the max.”

Where were you when you heard DJ Khaled and Drake’s “To The Max” and what did you think?
I was actually in my bed. My producer, DJ On The Beat, called me and was like you must have heard the song because I was already promoting it before the song came out. I have genuine support with Khaled aside from the fact that he just let me use his studio for like three, four weeks straight on the low. But I was just genuinely supporting the single and when it dropped that morning my producer called me like, “Man, this is gonna be big for us, this is gonna be big for the city, they got Drake rappin’ over jook music and Chad [Thomas a.k.a. Major Nine] produced it. He was ecstatic about it. When I went to listen to it, I loved it. I was like, ‘Oh that’s dope.’

A lot of people on Twitter have had negative reactions but it seems like you didn’t have that at all.
I had to straighten them out, man. I’m almost ready to go to bat for Khaled and tell anybody in Miami, if you got a problem with Khaled, you got a problem with me, man. Because that ain’t right for anybody who got anything negative to say in Miami, that’s just downright selfish to feel that no one else outside of Miami can’t rap over that. Whatever problems they got with it, I don’t see it being legit at all because that’s a great, great look for our city and it’s just the fact that Khaled could have went anywhere, did any type of regional sound but he chose our sound and for a Miami-inspired sound to be on the worldwide scale, man that’s big. So if you hating on Khaled about that, you really a small thinker and you need to reevaluate yourself.

Why do you think jook music never got to this level before?
Because we never had nobody of that caliber to embrace it. The biggest artists to embrace jook music was probably Usher when he did that “shawty I don’t mind…how you working that pole” [“I Don’t Mind” ft. Juicy J]. That was like jook-inspired. Then K Camp had a song “tell me where you wanna go” [“Comfortable”]. I would consider that the biggest jook music’s ever been but other than that, it was just Piccalo, Ball Greezy, IceBerg, Bizzle, DJ Rhymer and DJ Ghost and a couple more people from Miami really carrying it and stuff. So when Khaled had put Drake on there, I’m like, ‘Whoa, the world gonna get used to our sound.’

READ: Ice Billion Berg Proves Being ‘Real Is Rare’ With His Surprise Mixtape

Do you blame the DJs at the time for not playing jook?
No, if anything I blame radio stations and our media outlets for not embracing it. The DJs always been a fan of our culture. It’s just like jook songs never got big exposure like that aside from the shows in Miami. But people never really took it serious and put it on the forefront as far as the big outlets and stuff like that. You know, Miami artists always get overlooked ’til they do something very, very spectacular.

Is jook still around? Will your new album have jook on it?
Our sound kind of evolved from that. It’s like jook-inspired stuff. All my mixtapes have sounds that’s related to what you would hear on a Khaled beat but we stopped doing that in like ’06-07. A lot of those snippets that Khaled’s promoting the single with is from like ’07, ’08 and stuff like that. So yeah we kind of evolved. I won’t say we got away from the sound but we evolved it and kind of slowed it down. Like even if you listen to Ball Greezy’s latest music and my latest music, it’s birthed from that but it’s just like slowed down and more well-rounded now. I just put a single out, you can go listen to it. It’s called “Somebody Like Me.” It’s like Caribbean inspired sounds where it’s kind of fast but it’s not really jook, but it’s still really fast, uptempo, Caribbean vibin’.

Do you think the Florida hip-hop scene has changed in general since ’06? There’s a lot more rappers now.
Yeah, there’s a lot more rappers. It always changes but change is always good. It’s never gonna stay the same. I can’t expect kids that’s 13, 14 years old that’s aspiring to be the next Kodak Black or the next Ball Greezy to do the same things we did when we were that age. Change is always good. We’re incorporating more styles. Still can’t be duplicated though. Nobody can’t duplicate Florida music like a Florida bred artist.

READ: DJ Khaled And Drake Add To Their List Of Collaborations With “To The Max”

Not even Drake…?
That’s what a lot of people are mad at. A lot of people hit me up like we not mad, we not hating on Khaled, we just saying Drake ain’t rap on it right and we just saying it’s too fast and we just saying that. But I’m like just calm down. It’s not that big of a deal.

Who do you think is going to be next rapper to make it out of Florida?
I don’t know. Hopefully everyone. Hopefully we all just pop at once like Houston did in the early 2000s or like Atlanta been doing for awhile. You can’t just name one artist from Atlanta. It’s multiple guys pop up and just do they things. How this game go is all about momentum and star alignment. Once the momentum is there and the stars are aligned, you could be the next overnight sensation that’s been working for the last 20 years that nobody heard of such as me.

You have a new mixtape that just came out right?
Yeah, Real is Rare. I just dropped a project two weeks ago, it’s called Reserved For The Real. I’m getting away from elongated marketing schemes and crazy complex promotion things and gimmicks and stuff. I’m just giving the music directly to the people because the truth is that all these fans already have their music on their phones instantly so it’s like what’s the need of an elongated promo for two, three months and have to try and build up anticipation when the people gonna have it instantly through the streaming sites and all that. So, not to ride Beyonce and Jay Z and Kanye’s wave too much, but we just giving them the music directly to them unannounced. It’s funner that way too, honestly, for me to see the reaction. Nobody knows it’s coming out. We’re just dropping it to get the looks on their faces. But that’s not for anybody to do. You have to have an established fan base to do that type of stuff.

READ: Reunited: Trick Daddy Announces Joint Album With Trina

You mentioned on Twitter that you learned a lot from Miami OGs like Rick Ross and Trick Daddy. What did you learn from them?
So much. They’re both like night and day but I learned a lot from Ross just watching him and his business moves and his marketing schemes. Then Trick, I learned to stay true to your culture. You ever notice that Trick don’t even wear a New York hat, Chicago jersey, he’s all Miami. Ross is more of like a worldwide boss businessman type dude and Trick like the street, gritty type guy. I learned a lot from them and aside from me learning stuff they helped me multiple times financially, especially Ross. Shout out to Rozay, Trick. They’ve been some good big brothers along the way for me.

What’s next for you?
I’m getting ready to go to Denver this week. I’m going to just vibe up there, smoke some weed and get my thoughts right and after that I’ll definitely know what direction I’m going to take it in. I’m going to Denver just to smoke in the mountains and read tweets from my fans and comments from my fans and stuff. Then I’ll know exactly where I want to take my life at.

What made you choose to name the projects Reserved For The Real and Real Is Rare?
I just feel like so much phony stuff going on. I feel like so much gimmicky, marketing b.s. is going on in the game. I feel like people are just not keeping it organic enough anymore. I feel like everybody is so polished. Even the women are just like so polished now, so made-up and play-dough created players. I feel like it’s just not real. And I feel like when I say real, a lot of people associate that with being a real ni**a. I’m just saying having a real passion for whatever you do and not just doing it because that’s what the hype is. I’m a rapper. I just don’t look like a rapper, I really live the rap life. I really done been through the downfalls and the ups of being a rapper. I just don’t look like a rapper with a chain and money and lean and weed. I really lived it. I’m a real artist, you know what I mean? I feel like a lot of people are just getting away from organic real stuff.

No matter what you’re doing, if you’re a street artist don’t do it just for the look. When I say artist I mean like a graffiti artist, like a painter or whatever. Don’t do it just for the fame, do it because you love the art. Perfect your craft first and then present it to the world. And I feel like that’s what I been doing so long, just perfecting. When I say Reserved For The Real, only ones who will still be here listening to my music is the real music fans, the real hip-hop fans that care about an artist growing and care about an artist polishing their sound opposed to a dude that just hyped up on an artist cause he got a little money or hyped up on an artist because he dating the nicest chick. It’s real fans that appreciate real growth and real music and real life situations. That’s why I called that Reserved For The Real. And the next one is called Real is Rare just to reassure like, no this the real thing, this is not like no carbon copy bullsh*t, you know?

What advice would you give to any rappers who are just starting out?
Like I said, just keep it real. Be yourself. Be you. Be the person that your mama named you. Be the person that your neighborhood know. Take the person that your neighborhood know to the world and see if they like that person. If they don’t like that person then this game might not be for you because everything that’s in the dark is gonna eventually come to the light and if you ain’t solid you ain’t gonna check out. It’s just gonna be a waste of your time, you know? So just be you, whether you’re a church going citizen that work everyday, I want to hear your music filled with that type of stuff and the people that relate to your life gonna love it. But if you a 9-5 hard working citizen, I don’t really want to hear too much about everyday struggle and the street life and the gun-busting and drugs from you if you not living that life. Not saying that don’t make you cool, I’m just saying it’s not for you.

Keep it real with yourself. If you’re working 9-5 and taking care of your family, that’s what I want to hear in your music. Make music about that. Your everyday life. I don’t want to hear nothing else that don’t pertain to you. Keep it trill. Whoever the person who you’re known as in your neighborhood, take that to the world.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I encourage everybody to go support my merchandise brand. You know we exclusively sell our clothes online and also we have a storefront in North Miami. Ya’ll stop by anytime ya’ll in Miami, come by The Live House to support the music and the merchandise.