Snow, he walks the walk to back up his talk. But as Canada’s foremost gangsta rapper, his is the kind of walk that can land a body in jail.
Which has already happened to the singer a number of times. It seems like every time something big happens with the 25-year-old rapper’s career, it’s paralelled by a brush with the law.
Snow spent yesterday afternoon holding court at the King Edward Hotel to promote his new album, Murder Love. In the morning, he was held in court to answer a charge of uttering death threats. This could be serious; he’s already barred from entering the U.S. and another conviction probably won’t help. Or it could go the way Snow hopes; a guilty plea and a fine. But the case wasn’t dealt with yesterday and has been held over.
“The real drag is that the incident is old news; you can hear on the new album that I’m moving away from gangsta talk. Now this charge comes up and it’s like I’m doing this now.
“The incident happened after an AIDS benefit, when me and some people went back to the hotel. Basically, I got into a shouting match and as you know, you get mad, you’re just yelling, blowing off steam. I guess I was just in the wrong place and things got blown up.
One of the most satisfying cuts on Canadian DJ Snow’s new release, Murder Love, is a tale of his love affair with Reggae music called “Dream.” Here Snow reminisces about his days in Toronto’s Allenbury housing project, where he first became acquainted with Reggae through the friendships formed with the many Jamaicans who had moved into his area: .. ‘Listen Shabba Ranks playing faintly from the speaker/I would eat mi curry chicken, that’s my favorite supper/If you think mi joke or lie, gwaan ask me mother/I would living on the island sweet, sweet Jamaica/Fish with Coco Tea down in the river/Hanging at the ghetto with me boy they call Ninja/No, but it’s only a dream.’
“Dream” goes on to describe imagined evenings spent at Kingston’s Godfather’s nightclub and sessions with the Stone Love sound system. If the song had more verses, it might have depicted other ambitions of the aspiring DJ, like performing at Jam World for Reggae Sunsplash and ripping up the crowd at Topline and other crucial Kingston dance hall sessions. Yet, something Snow could never have imagined was that his first album for Motor Jam/EastWest Records, 12 Inches of Snow (released in 1993), would go platinum and the first single from the album, “Informer,” would top the Billboard Pop Charts for seven weeks!
“When I did that album, it was just for fun,” Snow recalls. “I wasn’t thinking this album’s gonna blow up. I didn’t really think nothing of it, I just loved doing it. When it did blow up, I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ Now, I look on my wall and I see these plaques and I think, ‘Yeah, they’re sure.'”
Snow won ‘Best Reggae Recording’ for Informer at the 1994 Juno Awards in Toronto, Canada.
He was also nominated for ‘Album of the Year’ for 12 Inches of Snow and ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’.
Informer went straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in 1993, and stayed there for an impressive seven weeks.
The record went Platinum in both the United States and Germany, Gold in Austria and Silver in the United Kingdom.
It was also entered into the Guiness Book of World Records, twice, as the biggest selling reggae single in U.S. history, and the highest charting reggae single in history.
Besides the U.S., Informer also reached number one in numerious countries, including Australia, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
At first, Steve Salem suspected it was a snow job.
How could some guy from Toronto – and a white guy at that – authentically reproduce the rapid-fire patois of Jamaican dancehall music, let alone sell a ton of records?
That question ran through Salem’s mind when producer MC Shan brought Snow to a New York studio for an audition. With DJ Marvin Prince laying down a beat track, Snow grabbed the microphone and chilled the room with Uhh in You.
Salem, co-owner of Motor Jam Records, went from skeptic to believer in three minutes and 46 seconds.
That’s the length of time listed on the CD jacket for Uhh in You, one of 14 tracks on 12 Inches of Snow, Snow’s debut disc released last December. Twelve Inches has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, based mainly on the strength of one single, Informer.
“Sure I was skeptical,” Salem said this week from his New York office. “Well, you know what it’s like. There’s always somebody trying to get a record deal.”
Sure, white guys can rap. But no way can a skinny, can’t-dance Canadian who has never even seen the Caribbean master Jamaican toasting, a reggae-flavored rap style delivered in singsong patois at auctioneer speed.
Better make that Snow way. Born in Toronto, Snow, 23, has established himself as rasta rap’s gab-gifted savant with “Informer,” the catchy single that reigned at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for seven weeks. Though its lyrics are delivered at such bewildering speed that the video carries subtitles, the radio-ubiquitous song has pushed the debut album that spawned it, 12 Inches of Snow, into the Top 5.
Snow (real name: Darrin Kenneth O’Brien) learned the rap style from neighbors in the mostly Jamaican housing project where he grew up, the second of four children born to a cabdriver father and a homemaker mother.
A ninth-grade dropout (“I didn’t know how to read that well; still don’t”), he graduated to the slammer after a string of arrests for street brawling. In the projects, violence became routine, Snow says. “I would just chill out, drink, whatever. People would walk by, we’d get all drunk and beat ’em. Tempers, I guess.”