MC. Check. Official track credits. Check. “Ether”, the Nas direct shot at Jay-Z song shut down was a miraculous come up for Harlem producer, Ron Browz. The Uptown resident went on to get behind, “Last Real N***a Alive” by Nas, “Blow It Out Your Ass” by Ludacris, and “Playboy” by G-Unit’s own Lloyd Banks are additional cuts in point blank range of Ron Browz’ impressive discography.
Journey with AllHipHop.com, as we explore the social and industry growth of a man behind one of the most important tracks of recent years. We begin with a look at his illustrious roots with Big L, onto Nas, and the impacts of that. Ron Browz is proof that everything can change in one minute, one session, one track. All you bedroom producers, see how hard you've got to hustle - and once you're in, how easy it all becomes.
AllHipHop.com: Before Nas, it was Big L. We're coming up on six years since he left us. How did you hook up with him?
Ron Browz: Harlem is a place where everybody knows each other. It just so happened that I was chilling on the block one day and Big L passed through. He saw me and my friend so I approached him on some, 'You want to hear some beats?' I already knew who he was. He was like, 'Yeah, what’s good?' So he came right up to my mom’s crib which to me was real hood. I played the beats and he took two of them. One of them was for 'Ebonics'. The next day, he laid it down right in my crib to hear how it would sound, which I think was hood too. The next week, we did it in the studio for real.
AllHipHop.com: With him passing, what affect did it have on you both professionally and personally?
Ron Browz: Personally, it was unbelievable. Because the last time I spoke to him he was like, 'I’m going to take you to LA', which was ill because I never went out to LA before. I was mad excited. Then the next call I got was a dude telling me he just got murdered. I couldn’t believe it. I was silent for like five minutes. You know death is devastating to anybody. At first I had to get away, so I went upstate to chill and get my mind right. I thought about the whole situation and I took it as a sign to just keep going and never quit. He was like one of the first dudes to take my tracks to another level.
AllHipHop.com: Do you still keep in touch with his family or close friends?
Ron Browz: Oh yeah, I keep in touch with his man McGruff, from Harlem.
AllHipHop.com: What’s good with him nowadays?
Ron Browz: Man, he’s a hot, hot underground artist for real! Every time I get a chance I put him on something that I’m doing. If I do a mixtape or something, I always holla at him.
AllHipHop.com: Dealing with star level artists…do you ever have to deal with the artists being on some s**t like, 'I want it this way, blah, blah, and blah'?
Ron Browz: Nah, if anything they will put their request in before we get to the studio, like can I arrange it this way or that way, so it’s all good.
AllHipHop.com: Okay…let’s get to 'Ether' That joint went down in the history books. Would it be safe to say 'Ether' put Ron Browz on the map, and at the same time help put Nas back on the map?
Ron Browz: Yes. I think it would be safe to say that, no question!
AllHipHop.com: Can you recall the day you came up with that track?
Ron Browz: I remember coming up with 'Ether' at like four o’clock in the morning. I had my headphones on, because I couldn’t have the music all out at that time, because moms would flip you know? If you listen to the track it has strings in it. I was messing with strings in my head that night. The track is vicious, but at the same time very appealing. It was a very appealing hardcore track. Everybody that heard it just loved it.
AllHipHop.com: So at the time when you made the track, Nas wasn’t in the picture yet?
Ron Browz: Nah, he wasn’t.
AllHipHop.com: So how did it end up in the hands of Nas?
Ron Browz: That’s when my manager Fuzz came into play. If you’re going to start taking your music as a business I would recommend getting a strong manager, especially if you don’t have that out-going type of personality. I hooked up with Fuzz, who’s from Harlem too. Like I said, Harlem is really like one big block, everybody knows everybody. My manager knew Nas’ travel agent, who in turn got it in the hands of his A&R. Shout out to the travel agent for real! So I heard that Lenny [the A&R] and Steve Stoute went over the track in the office, and they loved it. This was right in the middle of Nas beefing with Jay. It wasn’t like I was like, 'Yo this is for you to diss Jay on', but the joint was so vicious. I guess there wasn’t anything else for him to do on that track but spit venom. [laugh]
AllHipHop.com: So you actually went into the studio with Nas to lay the song down?
Ron Browz: Yes.
AllHipHop.com: Describe the experience.
Ron Browz: Yo, I grew up listening to Nas so the last thing on my mind was that I would one day do a track for him. It was crazy. When we were in the studio he was cool. We were chilling and he was like, 'Yo, when this comes out, this s**t is going to be crazy'. When I heard the vocals, I [agreed]. It was like a shock to my system. When the song dropped it brought tears to one of my peoples I went to school with, so ['Ether'] was some powerful s**t.
AllHipHop.com: So you knew right then and there you were making history…
Ron Browz: Yeah, and everybody knew me from that. It got me my name, so I’m comfortable with that.
AllHipHop.com: How did 'Ether' affect your position in the industry knowing how political things are?
Ron Browz: Actually, I’m very cool with Hip Hop [former Roc-A-Fella A&R]. He came over my house to listen to some beats before. If I’m not mistaken, I believe I let him hear the 'Ether' beat before Nas and them heard it.
AllHipHop.com: That’s a revelation right there!
Ron Browz: Yeah, I know right? But I see people from Roc-A-Fella to this day and they say what’s up. Maybe a couple of people might have thought I was down with Nas, but when the smoke clears, I’m a producer. I did that beat and Nas did what he had to do on it, so it’s no love lost. It’s all good.
AllHipHop.com: So 'Ether' led to more work with Nas?
Ron Browz: Yes…because after that I guess he [knew], dude is on fire, so he was like, 'I’m going to get you on my next joint.' He kept his word, and we did 'Last Real N***a Alive' so I respect dude for that. ['Last Real N***a Alive'] to me is another classic, and is one of my favorites right there.
AllHipHop.com: What other perks are now available to you in the game?
Ron Browz: Ever since 'Ether', I haven’t paid to get into a club. Yeah, the chicks are definitely on me, no doubt. But then again, I can’t really say that, because a lot of girls don’t know I’m the one behind the music, but the n***as know.
AllHipHop.com: How about on the finances?
Ron Browz: Oh yeah, with 'Ether', I played that joint out. If you do a track, you get publishing money. Every time it plays on the radio, or on TV, you get paid for that. When you sample, that money basically goes to whoever you sampled it from. You get royalties off of it but the publishing goes to the copyright owner. A lot of people don’t know that. So for all y'all up and coming producers, it’s good to play joints out, you will be nice, trust me! You can have it forever until you’re old, and still collect off of it. I might be old and gray, but if somebody decides to sample 'Ether', then I’m going to collect a check off of it. Being an old man and still getting a check is what’s up!
AllHipHop.com: So, obviously the floodgates opened up for you work wise correct?
Ron Browz: Yeah, definitely! That’s when I went on to do tracks for DMX, Fat Joe, Lil Kim, Luda. I remember being in the studio with Kim, and she’s like, 'Why you started all that trouble with Nas and Jay-Z doing that beat?' joking around. [laughs]