Some six years after his Jamaican dancehall-derived single “Informer” topped charts around the world, Canadian artist Snow is putting the finishing touches on a reggae-based pop/rock album that he hopes will return him to the charts.
Even though the follow-ups to that 1993 breakthrough fizzled, Snow is intent on revitalizing his career and wats to let his detractors know that his much-publicized liquor-soaked, hell-raising days are behind him.
“I love [music] and hope I can now have a career at it,” says the soft-spoken Snow, married and with a 3-year-old daughter. “I used to have only one foot in the [music] industry. Now, I want to put two feet in. Eleven months ago, I quit drinking. I’ve realized I have to stay out of trouble and focus on music.”
In March, Snow (real name Darrin O’Brien) signed a deal with JVC Records of Japan, which will release an as-yet-untitled 13-song album in that country and the rest of Asia. Snow is looking to license the album elsewhere.
Recorded at Snow’s home studio, the tracks were produced and written by Snow with longtime New York-based collaborator M.C. Shan and Nashville-based producer/engineer Glenn Rosenstein.
A day in court proved to be an uncharacteristically positive experience for Toronto reggae-dancehall rapper Snow last week.
After four years, a New York State appeals court finally threw out a $1.5 million jury verdict against the kid from the Scarborough projects who had a multi-platinum hit five years ago with the hard-to-decipher Informer.
‘It’s great it’s over,’ says Snow, a.k.a. Darrin O’Brien. ‘I’ve been trying to put it out of my mind, but it kept haunting me.’
The suit was launched by a former friend Marvin Prince, who argued that he’d helped develop Snow’s career. A jury awarded Prince the $1.5 mil in mid-’97, but the award was reduced as ‘excessive’ a few months later. Last week, the court went one step further, dismissing all liability.
The idea of a white guy from Canada named Snow singing reggae raised plenty of eyebrows when “Informer” came out in 1993.
Especially since the rise and fall of rapper – some would say novelty act – Vanilla Ice was still fresh in people’s minds.
But once most ears heard the Toronto dancehall reggae artist’s rapid-fire delivery (the video for “Informer” had subtitles) and smooth singing, there was no denying the music came from a real place.
His brushes with the law and general tough times in the housing project where he used to live in Toronto added to his mystique.
Otherwise known as Darrin O’Brien, Snow, 27, has made plenty of trips to Jamaica since dropping his multi-platinum single, “Informer” and his triple platinum (300,000 copies) debut album, 12 Inches Of Snow.
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.”
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.