EastWest Touts Show For All Seasons

Source: Janine McAdams, www.billboard.com

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.

“With the next single, we should solidify him as a multitalented pop artist and we can firmly root him in the dancehall arena as well as in the R&B arena,” says Karen Mason, director of marketing for EastWest.

Rhone adds that current marketing/promotion plans include making Snow much more visible in the marketplace via television exposure and a limited tour later this summer. Until recently, Snow has been seen only on video.


“We’ll set him up with a full band, not in the typical dancehall style with a DJ and a turntable, but a full band to get a sense of him as a total performer, a music-driven performer,” says Rhone.

Snow has already performed on MTV’s “Spring Break” and has done track dates in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and New York. He is set to appear April 29 on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” and has been tapped by Prince for a special “Glam Slam After Dark” pay-per-view event, to air in May.

Chart-topping success seems not have made too deep an impression on Snow himself.

“I was surprised because when I made ‘Informer,’ I was like, do you think people will like it?” says Snow, the erstwhile Darrin O’Brien from Toronto, who grew up immersed in the culture and music of his Jamaican emigrant neighbors. “We weren’t aiming for a pop hit. We all liked it and we jammed to it, but we didn’t know what the public will like.”

Snow began his path to stardom on a vacation to Queens, N.Y., with his pal, rap producer DJ Prince. His demo tape came to the attention of artist-turned-producer M. C. Shan, who took him into the studio. Studio owners Steve Salem and David Eng then signed Snow to their management/production company, Motor Jam Records.

Released to radio last December, “Informer” was originally targeted for the reggae/dancehall and R&B danceclub crowd and was soon picked up by pop radio, says Rhone. “Over the holidays, the record just caught its own steam,” she says. “It became the No. 1 requested record on Hot 97 [WQHT New York]. It happened better than we could have planned.”

Another factor in the success of “Informer” was video play on interactive video music outlet The Box, where the clip soon became the most-requested video on the channel. The explosive popularity of the track was more spectacular given the fact that most American listeners could not decipher the words.

The song is actually the first-person tale of Snow’s alleged frameup for attempted murder, for which he spent a short time in jail awaiting bail. He is now serving two years’ probation. Snow’s manager Salem suggested a captioned ver-sion of the video, which started airing on The Box and MTV in February.

“The idea came based on the fan mail,” says Salem, adding most letters begged for lyrics so fans could sing along.

“Informer” is actually the second single from “12 Inches Of Snow.” The label had released the more rap-oriented “Lonely Monday Morning” last August to little fanfare. “We released ‘Lonely Monday Morning’ with white labels, with no image and no identification, just the name Snow,” says Snow.

“We were trying to solidify some credibility in the ethnic market so he wouldn’t be perceived as just another white boy trying to copy a black art form,” explains Rhone.

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