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.