Jay-Z fired the initial shot in his memorable battle against Nas by dropping “Takeover” in 2001. But he also had one of the first opportunities at the beat Nas used to answer him. Producer-turned-artist Ron Browz says he shopped the track that would eventually become “Ether” to a bunch of different emcees, including Jay-Z.
“It was just one of them beats that I let everybody hear,” Browz explained in an interview with ThisIs50.com. “Whoever came to the house, I was like, ‘Yo hear this.’ One of Jay’s A&R’s actually came to the house to hear that beat too. He said he was gonna give it to Jay, but I guess it never got in his hands. I went through a travel agent to get to Nas, and it got in Nas’ hands. I guess it got to him at the perfect time. Nas was like, ‘Come to the studio and hear what I did.’”
What Nas did was his most inflammatory song to date. “Ether” was sandwiched between a handfull of back and forth diss tracks between Nas and Jay, including “Super Ugly,” “Last Real Nigga Alive” and “Blueprint 2.” Ultimately, Nas and Jay reconciled and eventually became label mates for a brief period.
Ironically, Browz could have potentially placed a few beats on a Roc-a-fella release. Browz was behind some of the late Big L’s more memorable tracks—including “Ebonics.” According to Big L’s brother, Donald Phinazee, Jay-Z and Damon Dash were courting Big L in hopes of adding him to the Roc-a-fella roster. Unfortunately Big L passed before he could potentially take Roc-a-fella up on their offer. And despite the criticism of Browz later Auto-tune heavy productions, “Ebonics” and “Ether” maintain their place on many fans and critic’s list of favorites.