Hip-hop heads know Ron Browz as a supplier of grimy backdrops for 50 Cent, Ludacris and Nas. Forget about that guy. Now gracing the spotlight under the quasi-alter ego Ether Boy, the producer turned performer is set on creating over-the-top anthems, not mash-out music. With listeners already sky high off the zany single “Jumping (Out the Window),” Ron Auto-Croons his way through his experimental solo debut, Ether Boy.
For starters, Ron recreates his most famed melody for the opening “Etherboy Anthem,” a reintroduction with all the bite—minus the venom—of Nas’s “Ether.” After laurel resting, Browz throws a block party with “I’m From Uptown,” as AG (the voice of Harlem, not the D.I.T.C. rap legend) blesses the bubbly hometown homage. Here, Browz revels in his solo success, warbling, “It’s good to see everybody dancing now/I can put my mother in a mansion now.” The energy remains high throughout, as Ron touches on a range of musical genres. He effectively channels Prince on the infectious ode to low-maintenance mates “Simple,” and even goes techno alongside Fatman Scoop with the hyperactive “Paniez in the Microwave.” On the latter, Browz displays his affinity for hot girls and sexy lingerie when he spits, “Slide in with her curlers on/And she got La Perlas on,” over a persistent, pulsating kick that is sure to resonate on the dance floor.
Unfortunately, things go downhill once Browz steps from behind the boards and into the booth. Rarely switching off the Auto-Tune, Ron’s robotic refrains demand aspirin on tracks like “For My Ladies.” Ether Boy’s greatest fault, however, is that the buoyant affair lyrically provides little outside of club hoppin’ and bottle poppin’. The emptiness becomes most evident on “I Do My Thing,” a seemingly pointless boasting session over clanking percussion, and the synthy Busta Rhymes–assisted “I Promise,” where Ron pads his verses with nonsensical rhymes.
Browz finally gets personal on the electric-guitar-laden “Wheels Fall Off,” but after an album’s worth of party and bullshit, the disc seems repetitive. If he’d give the same focus to his bars as his beats, Ron would be poppin’ enough Champagne to last a lifetime. –JOHN KENNEDY