Production Credit: Ron Browz, Nas’s “Ether” 10 Years Later


Ron Browz doesn’t get his just due. The Harlem-bred producer’s résumé reads like a who’s who list of New York notables and he’s responsible for the sonics of classic records like Big L’s “Ebonics” and Nas’s “Ether.” Still, Browz’s work yields skepticism. Over the last decade, he’s also emerged into a capable hitmaker—producing and performing on his own “Jumping Out the Window,” as well as Jim Jones’s “Pop Champagne” and Busta Rhymes’s “Arab Money.”

Though all of Browz’s previously mentioned hits have charted higher than “Ether,” he’s still primarily known for assisting God’s Son in his scathing rebuttal to Jay-Z’s “Takeover.” Now, 10 years after the release of the classic diss song, RB reveals to XXL that Jay’s A&R, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, had the “Ether” instrumental first, how producing the track barred him from working with the God MC and why it’s a better beat than the Kanye West-produced, “Takeover.”—Carl Chery (@cchery)

XXL: When you made that beat did you have Nas in mind or was it for someone else?

Ron Browz: No. Me, when I’m doing production I stick myself in a house, don’t go nowhere and make straight beats. It was an awkward, hardcore beat. I kinda played around and rapped on it, me and my friends, but it wasn’t nothing serious going. Hip Hop from Roc-A-Fella, somebody had brought him to my house and I played him that beat I played him another beat. And he actually took these two beats, but I guess it never got to the ears of Jay, but it got to the ears of Nas.

When did you find out that Nas was going to go at Jay on the record?

Nas had that record at the summer time. And he held it for so long. I was like, “He ain’t gon use it.” So I forgot about it, but then Nas called me that winter, like that December. And he was like, “Yo, I need you to come to the studio and listen to what I did to your beat. I get to the studio and he’s just chilling, he was real calm about it. He wasn’t amped. He told the engineer to play the record and my mouth dropped. Nas knew the effect it was gonna have. I didn’t know the effect it was gonna have. And I’m like, “Wow, people gon hate me for this. I’ll never get to work with Jay as a producer. Is Jay gonna feel a way? All them ran into my mind. I got so many phone calls. Work started coming in for me, so it ended up being a positive thing.

Lenny S. said that every time you see him you say that you producing “Ether” may have gotten in the way of you working with Jay.

You know what, you hear so much then you start to believe it. Maybe he does feel some type of way. I’m gonna say he feels some type of way. I never worked with him. I worked with the greatest. Lil’ Kim, Foxy, Nas, Fat Joe, 50 Cent, Jadakiss. I worked with a lot of the top artists. I never got a chance to work with Jay and I’m nice so I don’t get it.

Since you produced it, did you feel like you had to pick sides when the battle was happening?

I tell people, I’m a fan of hip-hop at the end of the day. I like Jay, I like Nas. Did I pick sides? At that time, you already know who won. Once “Ether” came out, it wasn’t even picking sides, it was like which record was harder. “Ether” happened to be the harder record.

Over the years Jay and Kanye have compared the “Ether” beat to the “Takeover” beat—

Kanye know I trashed him.

So you think “Ether” is a better instrumental than “Takeover?”

Come on. I did that from scratch. Kanye sampled it. Come on. My mother can go in the house and listen to a record, chop that, chop that and make that. You know I heard Kanye when he was saying that, “How can people compare them?” I did that from scratch, the keyboard, a drum machine, my drum patterns. That’s me playing the keyboard with the strings and all the additional percussion. And it was hard. That’s a sample. Come on, anybody can do that. Is y’all playing? “Yo, it’s better.” Nah. I mean, I don’t know who produced ["Takeover"]. Kanye know, man. He know deep in his heart what beat is harder. And you can just do a survey.

I think we gon do that on the site and find out.

Niggas gon be like, “That ‘Ether’ was so hard. It was so awkward as a hardcore beat. It was malicious. ["Ether"] by a landslide.

  • James Tarv8

    I never really thought the ether beat was good. Sounds like some ol cute sh*t. If you hear that on a beat tape you’d never think of it as a hard diss song. Takeover was raw, yeah it was a sample, so the f*ck what. Ron Browz aight at best. LOL

    • CaponeMOB

      i just fuckin dont get why is this EVEN a debate 10 FUCKIN years later? unless you were sleepin under a FUCKIN rock for the past 10 yrs,you already know who won the battle. NAS won the fuckin battle PERIOD. EVEN jay-z fans agree to this shit. and MOST rappers in the game say NAS won. EVEN NAS’s enemies will tell you HE won. people in jay-z’s inner circle will tell you the same too. so why are you jay-z fans still debating? when ether droped every body in my city said jay-z IS done,the bettle is over in a well KNOWN radio station
      people where calling all night and day,and they must haved played ether like 100 times before the day was over,which i dint even HEAR nobody play the takeover like they did ether
      and im from a BIG ASS city too..

      AND the takeover beat sounds SO fuckin garbage,i dont know who in their right mind would pick that beat to diss another nigga,that record sounded mostly comical then serious,especially by adding those fuckin stupid voices that say “THATS LAMEEEEE” i dint listen to that record more then TWICE just based on the garbage beat and the stupid grammer school taunts.

      and ether was a more sinister beat and got the point across real good,BUT that does not mean RON BROWZ should walk around like he’s DR.DRE or some shit.and the ether beat while better then takeover still wasnt that hot. and WE all know of NAS’s history of pickin wack beats. so this nigga should stop feelin himself cuz hes not a hot producer thats why jay-z never fucked with him. at the end of the day NAS was the VICTOR not ron browz.

      • $yk

        ^ what he said

        all of that “it was a better song”, and “it was more realistic” sounds like SORE LOSER talk.

        Jay’s Summerjam picture hurt Prodigy more than that ‘Takeover’ verse did…

      • bullets

        there talking about the beat not the battle and “ether” was a wack ass beat shit was boring if nas wasn’t nice we wouldn’t be speaking of this right now

        • $yk

          the beat IS part of the battle…

          and there are 100′s of beats that we wouldn’t have heard if the person on it wasn’t talented…

  • jimyyjam

    this dude done shit, he been livin off ether for 10 fuckin years, he even nameshis recordlabel and album after ether.

  • Redder

    sample or not Takeover is much better.. even to think of using that as a sample wins.. with Jim Morrison sayin Takin Over C’mon!!!!

    • Donte

      well said , i think nas is the GOAT but i know that the takeover beat is way better

  • Autumn

    I agree with James up there. Neither beat is all that nice. It’s the rappers that made that stuff great. Neither one of the beats would be anything if not for what lyrically happened on them with the beef and all.

  • london

    ether,is the beat jay would be happy to never hear again

  • Kid Chyllen

    Look, when it comes to the Nas Vs. Jay-Z battle, I’m always on Nas’ side. But, I actually hate the Ether beat and feel the Takeover beat is more ill.

    Also, Ron Browz sounded like an idiot in this interview.

    “Come on. I did that from scratch. Kanye sampled it. Come on. My mother can go in the house and listen to a record, chop that, chop that and make that.” < That's the most stupidest thing I've heard. Making a beat with a sample is probably one of the hardest things to do in Hip-Hop. I mean, now you can just be home and use FL Studio to make some average half assed beat, but to have a keyboard and a beat machine in front of you is hard as hell.

    So, I do believe the Takeover beat is better than the Ether beat, but Nas still won the battle hands down.

  • alderman j

    i saw an interview with beanie sigel where he said jay was walking around the studio scratching his head after he heard that ether!!!! Said jay didnt know what to do!!! JAY GOT SERVED!!!

  • land lord

    He made a good point. Technically spk’g anybody can sample/loop some fly sh*t but to craft a beat from scratch is more significant @the N of the day. Both records R good & will go down N history though

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    IMO Jay won the battle and Takeover was a better beat.

    To the untrained ear Ether sounds “hard” and Nas does seem to win. However, the Ether beat really soft and sweet. come on them gay azz horns punk strings the break is what people like. N the opening line “F jay z”

    I found most my homies who smoke and are illterate like Nas and Ether.

    My college educated homies who drink all vote Jayz and takeover.

    Takeover has layers. It sounds real simple but its deep. For that jumpin out the window dude to say anybody can do that beat explains why he though anybody can rap. Nah brah that beat had some heavy samples that explains the beat and the battle. Kayne put some though into it.

    As for the battle: jayz lines on that murked nas. a one hot album every six years…that was painful. Nas had too many gay jokes and then too many you the man lines. Those lines kinda suggest that nas admits jayz was that dude.

    Every one of jayz lines were punches he didn’t waste a bar. Plus takeover took out three different dudes in one song.

    • Wryders

      Well said..Takeover was on a completely different level…..Ether wasn’t as elaborate. As far as the beat…after 10 years, takeover is the one that i still have in mind, Kanye was a beast on this one…i had to go back and listen to ether to remember it…..

    • $yk

      “I found most my homies who smoke and are illterate like Nas and Ether.

      My college educated homies who drink all vote Jayz and takeover.”

      ^ wow…this says a lot considering you also like “Takeover”

    • MMMM

      Haha “to the untrained ear”. Get the fuck outta here. If you think Jay won you’re a stan.

      I’m sure you believe Eminem didn’t murder Jay Z on renegade too stan.

  • Esco600

    *2Pac Voice* FUCK JAY-Z :)

  • j

    there’s no way nas won that battle…did yall listen to Super Ugly and Blueprint 2…no way did he win…jay killed him with that verse in Takeover..and just set him up for super ugly….

    • Donte

      super ugly???why do people act like this nigga nas was still with the bitch this nigga was fucking everybody around the time jay and her messed around smdh so to me it comes off as irrelevant and was desperate ass attempt it was not nearly on the level of the takeover and the blueprint 2 sucked…ether was just straight up disrespectful… nas won…..and when comparing the beats come on now people idc if it was a sample every damn sample to a song dont always work kanyes beat was better BY FAR

  • bullets

    “ether” better battle song “takeover” better song and beat, this Ron Browz niga thinks he’s talented i beg to differ Nas was the best thing that ever happened to his mediocre beats if any other rapper used that beat nigas would a said it was wack trust…

  • london

    @ff1one, jay lost. everybody know’s it. from newyork to london. take over was good until ether dropped. they’re both great but jay was punching above his weight and took a beating. i respect you’re opinion but feel you are being bias.

    • ff1one@yahoo.com

      @ london every one does not think Jay lost, otherwise it would not be a debate. Nas lost BUT his career won from this battle. Jay later signed the dude and literally owned him.

      I dare you all to revisit both songs and listen to the lyrics and not the hype of that opening line “f jayz” because that set the tone for Ether. Keep in mind tho..

      Nas was dissed by Pac and was beefing with Pac.

  • http://XXLmag.com Leroy Love

    When is somebody going to whisper in Nas’ ear and let him know that it was Rock Hudson and NOT Rockerfeller who died of AIDS. I know bruh dropped out of school, but you still got to do your research. We know the Rockerfellers don’t need the money, but they could sue dude for slander. Remember kids, a mind is a terrible thang to waste, so go get tht edumacation, before you think Howard Hughes founded Playboy.

  • hater

    Jay won bc he still sells. Nas won bc he shitted all on Jay like all these young cats are afraid too…

    KRS already made an album called the #blueprint

    and nah that ether that shit that makes your soul burn slow

  • MoneyMitch

    The takeover beat is straight whack!! It’s like four notes tops lol the strings in ether are dope it has a dramatic build up the takeover is a loop at best it ain’t even a song

  • http://kaysrapzone.blogspot.com kay

    Nas won the war, but i think the takeover beat was more knocking…more radio friendly, more commercial-like…but, if it was just about no gimmicks, and just straight-up east-coast gritty rap, then Ether beat all the way. But, regardless of whatever anyone say, Nas destroyed Jay with Ether. Why would he say he got stronger after ether if he didn’t feel ether got him. Everyone knows nas destroyed jay, it’s just the die-hard jay fans that dont always want to admit that fact. Even Beanie sigel said that Jay was down the day he heard ether. And i can remember that Angie Martinez interview of jay after ether dropped…angie had to call for a commercial break, cos it seemed like jay was going to cry…if ether was lame, why would it have hit jay had like that. The only explanation with all these jay fans not wanting to agree is that Nas goes over their heads.

  • Fairbanks

    I remember years ago there was this producer roundtable interview in Scratch magazine, and I believe this was sometime after ‘College Dropout’ first dropped. Ron Browz was apart of it and when Kanye’s name was brought up, he was the only one that had bad things to say about him, something along the lines of ‘We don’t fuck with him in the hood” lol. Reading this now it’s clear to me he’s still salty about it after all these years. He knows deep down the “Takeover” beat is better and he knows that the general consensus is that the Takeover beat is better, and it burns him up inside.