Ron Browz needs no introduction… or well, maybe he does. Because despite producing Big L’s late 90s hit, “Ebonics,” and lacing everyone from Nas (“Ether”) to 50 Cent (“I’ll Whip Ya Head Boy”) with his unique brand of synthesized grit, the Harlem native has been largely unknown outside of music industry circles. That is, until this past August, when he released “Pop Champagne,” featuring none other than himself behind the boards and behind the Auto-Tune. “Pop Champagne” initially bubbled in the New York City club circuit before it started getting mixshow play on New York Radio Station Hot 97. Then fellow Harlem alums, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, jumped on the track, and the song became a nationwide hit. The resulting buzz lead to a deal with Universal Motown in September. SCRATCH recently caught up with the Ether Boy to talk about his fledgling career as an artist.
SCRATCH: “Pop Champagne” is a couple month’s old now, but it really blew up the past month and a half. Take me through the making of that record?
Ron Browz: When I was young I had a lot of older dudes in Harlem, when it was people’s birthdays or when it was nice outside, just to enjoy themselves they would pop champagne. I used to be one of the little guys they used to be like “taste this, you ain’t never had this before.” I wanted to fool around with the Auto-Tune, see what kind of ideas I could come up with, since everybody else was doing ideas. Play around with the plug-in. I kind of put all them elements and came up with that record.
SCRATCH: The production quality is different than what you’re known for.
RB: I’m a pretty diverse producer. I did stuff like that my whole career producing, but the artists I was doing business with wasn’t looking for that kind of sound. So if I had that on my beat CDs, they would overlook that and pick the hardcore records. That was the type of music they were picking at the time. I’ve always had different sounds and different tracks, it was just time for that type of sound [to be known].
SCRATCH: Would you say the fact that artists wouldn’t pick those beats inspired you to start rapping yourself?
RB: Somewhat, because I’m not 100% about hardcore tracks. I’m a diverse producer, so I can do anything, with any type of sound.
Was “Pop Champagne” always your record?
RB: I actually recorded that this summer. I was shopping other songs before that, but they weren’t catching. But after I did that, that record just happened to catch.
SCRATCH: It was big in the New York clubs before it hit radio, who were the first people to really break it in the club?
RB: DJ Self, DJ Will, DJ Tai Boogie, and DJ S&S. Those are some DJs from New York who broke the record.
SCRATCH: Jim Jones ended up jumping on it. A lot of people don’t understand how licensing in the music business works. Explain how the song can appear on both your album and his.
RB: When Jim heard the record, he wanted to get on it at first. It was already buzzing in the streets. At the time I didn’t have a deal, so he wanted to put some money behind it and do like a joint venture with the record, so he could put it on his album, I could put it on my album. A licensing deal, you’re giving him permission to be able to put it on his album. It wasn’t like he bought the record. It was just a licensing deal. I licensed it to him so he could put it on his. I could put it on mine. And we kind of like shared the buzz.
SCRATCH: When did your situation with Universal Motown come about?
SCRATCH: Were they only label reaching out?
RB: It was Universal. Sony kind of reached out, Asylum, Capitol.
SCRATCH: What was your decision based on going to Universal?
RB: They went hard, they made an offer and was ready to rock and roll. They was ready to roll the ball.
SCRATCH: T-Pain is talking about how Diddy gave him an extra point for what he did on his album with Auto-Tune. Auto-Tune has been out for years. Do you think Pain is going overboard with patting himself on the back for making this plug-in popular?
RB: I’m not going to go far left with that statement. He buzzed it. He got it buzzing in the hip-hop community, but like, the sound was already out.
SCRATCH: Do you think it has the potential to play itself out or does it have longevity?
RB: I’m not sure. It’s how people use it. It’s like sampling. People gonna keep sampling forever.
SCRATCH: Busta had a Cool & Dre record with Linkin Park and then a Sean C and LV record that was big at radio, but you produced the record that has people paying attention to him again. Why did your collaboration work whereas these others didn’t?
RB: It was a new energy. I’m a new energy. It was something people never heard before. It was something different. The Linkin Park record was a great record. It wasn’t a club record, so it wouldn’t be able to grow in the club. The other record might have been that typical Busta. To other people, it sound like they heard it before. But when they heard Arab Money” it was something different.
SCRATCH: Who’s idea was the hook on that song?
RB: Me, I gave it to him like that.
SCRATCH: How long does it take you to make a track like that?
RB: 5-10 minutes.
SCRATCH: What type of stuff are you using to make beats on?
RB: I use the same format, keyboards and MPCs– 2000, 3000, 60. I can get busy pretty much with any one of them.
SCRATCH: On the remix, is Puff throwing a shot at Jay on it?
RB: Because they’re cool, I think it’s a friendly jab.
SCRATCH: You have this new song, “Jumping Out The Window,” what’s that joint about and do you expect it to be as big as “Pop Champagne?”
RB: If not that, bigger. Again, I’m doing something unique with the sound. It’s got a certain energy, and that record, it’s big expectations.- Paul Cantor