With “Informer,” white Canadian artist Snow has managed to put a dancehall-derived tune sung in Jamaican patois in the No. 1 position on the Hot 100 Singles chart for seven weeks. In addition, the single (which features a rap by M.C. Shan) has become an international hit, reaching No. 3 on the U.K. chart.
For EastWest, the artist’s label, the current task is to keep the momentum going. “Now the challenge of establishing Snow as an artist really confronts us,” says Sylvia Rhone, CEO/chairman of EastWest Records. “When you have that phenomenal single that a lot of people can say is a novelty, we have to prove it’s not a one-trick pony.”
To that end, EastWest plans to expand on Snow’s urban base with the loping hip-hop ballad “Girl, I’ve Been Hurt,” to be released April 26. The label is targeting the R&B/hip-hop audience in an effort to stabilize Snow’s street credibility. To further that goal, the new single includes an extended “bogle” mix by Jamaican superproducers Sly Dunbar &; Robbie Shakespeare.
Life according to Snow: “I don’t have to be nothing I don’t want to be.”
And who is Snow? A white, Irish, Canadian-born, 23-year-old dance hall rapper who’s responsible for Informer, the No. 1 single on the Billboard charts for the past three weeks.
Being white in a black-dominated rap world is no problem, he says. “Nobody’s dissed me yet.”
Yes, Vanilla Ice comes to mind. Snow knows that.
“I haven’t talked to him,” he says. “He did his thing … People just killed him.”
Does Snow (real name: Darrin O’Brien) worry about the same fate?
“If they do, that’s what’s going to come. I’ll keep putting out good music so they can’t kill me.”
Informer’s popularity speaks for itself. It doesn’t seem to matter that the lyrics are incomprehensible because of Snow’s rapid-fire Jamaican patois – in what is reggae’s answer to rap. (The video, he points out, has the words typed out across the bottom.)
You want to see Snow heat up?
Just call the 23-year-old singer-rapper from Toronto the Vanilla Ice of dancehall reggae.
“I don’t like it,’ he says, seething, during an interview. But some similarities are inescapable.
Snow is the first big white star in this black, Jamaican-dominated genre, just as Vanilla Ice — best known for his 1990 hit single Ice Ice Baby — was the first white solo star in black-oriented rap. Also like Ice, Snow is a hunk who attracts the young pop audience — particularly females.
And both performers talk about coming up from the streets. While many observers have accused Vanilla Ice of fabricating elements of his background to appear more street-tough, Snow has an actual criminal record. To remove any doubt, his co-manager Daniel Eng will even supply the singer’s rap sheet from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Snow, whose real name is Darrin O’Brien, recently completed eight months in jail in Toronto for assault — his second stretch behind bars. When he was 19, he served a year for a variety of charges, including assault.