A documentary that follows Snow on his tour of Canada after topping the charts with his multi-platinum selling number one smash hit ‘Informer’.
Includes behind the scenes footage of Snow in Allenbury and interviews with Snow, his lawyer, the Police, MC Shan and Snow’s family and friends.
Darrin Kenneth O’Brien better known by his stage name Snow, is a Juno Award winning Canadian reggae musician. He is best known for his 1992 single “Informer”, which reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Snow was born and raised in the North York district of Toronto, Ontario. For much of his childhood, he lived in the Allenbury Gardens public housing, and at the age of 16 moved to Ajax, Ontario. Growing up in a diverse neighbourhood, O’Brien blended dancehall and reggae with rock and popular music to create his own unique style of music. In 1988, Jamaican-born DJ Marvin Prince witnessed O’Brien deejaying at a party and the two quickly became friends. For the next few years, they practiced in Prince’s basement with Snow providing vocals and Prince scratching the turntables. While on a trip to New York City, Prince mentioned Snow to rap star M.C. Shan. Shan then invited Snow to New York and introduced him to music producers, David Eng and Steve Salem. Snow eventually signed a contract to record on their Motorjam/Elektra record label and in 1993 released his debut album 12 Inches of Snow.
While Snow served prison time for an assault charge, M.C. Shan, David Eng, Steve Salem, and Marvin Prince promoted the recordings. Upon his release from prison, Snow’s first single “Informer”, written by Snow, M.C. Shan, and Edmond Leary, became a chart-topping hit. The album sold over 8 million records worldwide, with the “Informer” single remaining number 1 on the American Billboard charts for seven consecutive weeks. “Informer” has been recorded twice in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best selling reggae single in US history, as well as the highest charting reggae single in history. A second single, “Girl I’ve Been Hurt”, reached Number 19 on the Hot 100. In Japan, Snow received the Recording Industry Association of Japan’s 1994 Gold Disc Award for Best New Artist.
A “Rocky Story” of a young upstart Irish boy growing up in the projects; going to jail for a crime he didn’t commit but ending up as the #1 reggae singer and artist in the world.
Cashbox had the opportunity to “Shovel the Snow” with Darrin Kenneth O’Brien on this exclusive Q and A.
Cashbox: When you say the name Snow in the musical circles, so many different stories. almost urban legends surface, one of course being how you became Snow and when you wrote the song “Informer”.
The most popular story being that while you were incarcerated you learned the Jamaican slang patois and wrote the song “Informer”. What music were you listening to before that time?
Snow: No, that’s not quite right, I didn’t learn reggae in jail, and I had always been into the music in my ‘hood as my neighbours were from Jamaica and they were always playing reggae music. When I was like 11 years old and my brother was 14, he used to put on Kiss concerts and he had a hook-up with a ticket agency already at that age. So he would get blank tickets and write on them Kiss concert with like Max Webster opening up. Our nanny made us the costumes with all the makeup and I had long hair and the blood, the whole thing and we had like 120 people show up. We had a stage and everything; it was amazing.
We liked rock ‘n’ roll then and in those days everyone in the projects (where I lived Allenbury Gardens) were Irish, the ‘hood was all Irish families. We listened to Kiss, Rush, Max Webster and had a lot of fun doing these shows. Then when I was around 14 years old and Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister, he changed the immigration policies and that’s when all the Chinese came in and in my neighbourhood, the Jamaicans.
Canadian based organization Visionnation have organized Vision 2004, a music and culture festival which will take place in Ottawa and in Cairo, Egypt.
The festival was organized by Visionnation representatives in Canada and Egypt to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and to showcase their strengthened relationship. The first of the two festivals will be held in Egypt near the site of the Great Pyramids on May 28 and 29 and the second will be held in Ottawa on June 12th and 13th.
Visionnation is an organization started by musicians whose purpose is to erase negative perception and stereotypes between Middle Eastern and Western nations. The festivals provide a platform for different cultures to interact, and to educate and expose people to a different culture through music, food and crafts. Proceeds from the festivals will go to charities selected by the host city.
The 16 performers at the festival will represent many different genres of music, including electronic, rap, rock and aboriginal. The complete lineup will be announced soon, but so far several well-known Egyptian artists are scheduled to make the trek to Ottawa to represent their country and Canadian pop/reggae artist Snow has been confirmed to perform.
In 1993, the hit song ‘Informer’ blasted across American and Canadian airwaves and video channels, introducing the phrase ‘licky bum bum down’ to the pop culture vernacular and guaranteeing one-hit wonder status for Darrin O’Brien, aka Snow.
But although Snow had marginal street cred — his mention of a sensi bust on ‘Informer’ was based on personal experience — bad memories of Vanilla Ice lingered. Snow had a minor hit in 1995 with ‘Anything For You’ (whose star-studded remix was popular with both Jamaican and American core reggae fans), but his sophomore effort didn’t come anywhere near the sales of his first LP. He soon disappeared into the dustbin of history, seemingly fated to be the answer to a trivia question: ‘Who was the early 90s chart-topping white reggae artist from Canada?’
‘Informer’s’ fate belies the fact that it came during an interesting time in reggae’s history. In the early ’90s, dancehall was not only the champion sound of Jamaica, but was also making steady inroads into the ever-widening American hip hop audience, through its solid East Coast connections. Boogie Down Productions, Special Ed, Heavy D, Masters of Ceremony, Poor Righteous Teachers, Jamalski and many others were injecting reggae phrases and choruses into their jeep beats. Meanwhile, reggae artists like Shinehead, Shabba Ranks and Cutty Ranks were getting steady rotation in rap clubs and on mix shows. The upshot of all this activity was a trend towards major labels jumping on the reggae-hip-hop bandwagon, which ultimately resulted in a flurry of signings, a few bonafide hits, and a lot of sub par albums.