Informer
by Snow

Album: 12 Inches of Snow (1992)
Charted: 2 1

Songfacts®:

  • Snow is Darrin O'Brien, a white reggae rapper from Allenbury Gardens, located in Toronto's North York district. During O'Brien's teenage years, his neighborhood experienced an influx of Jamaicans who fostered in him a love for dancehall reggae music. They nicknamed their Caucasian friend Snow, which depending on who's telling the story, is either an acronym for Super Notorious Outrageous Whiteboy, or a shortened version of another name they called him: Snow White.
  • While on bail for attempted murder charges, Snow took a vacation in Queens, New York where he met rapper and producer M.C. Shan. The pair produced a four-song demo, which earned him a contract with Motor Jam Records company, who then licensed his music to East West Records. (Then home to major acts like En Vogue).

    Shortly thereafter, Snow had to return to Canada to face sentencing. Although he was acquitted of both attempted murder charges, he began serving an eight-month sentence in Toronto for assault.

    "Informer" exploded on the Billboard charts while he was incarcerated, spending seven consecutive weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 and reaching the Top 10 on the singles charts worldwide. By the time he was released from prison, Snow had become an international household name.
  • Snow's patois-laced single is based on a separate 1989 incident when he was charged with two counts of attempted murder stemming from his involvement in a knife fight. Only hardcore reggae listeners could understand what he was singing about without a lyric translation sheet.

    "I had my father and brother in my cell," he recalled to Genius. "When I was in custody, I wrote that little piece [sings]: 'Informer, detective man say Daddy Snow stabbed somebody down the lane.' I didn't even want to be a singer - it wasn't like I was handing out demos. I just did it because I got snitched on. Where I grew up, in my family, that was a terrible thing to do."

    Snow's charges were reduced to aggravated assault, and he was eventually acquitted and freed. The finalized song, which he completed with M.C. Shan's help, details the artist's time in jail, right down to the cavity search.
  • The "Informer" music video was shot before Snow went to jail for the second time. It made its mark on The Box, a cable channel that let people request videos by calling a 900 number. The first time Snow saw it was from jail.

    MTV didn't play a lot of rap, when it became the most-requested video on The Box, they took notice. Snow's management delivered a version to MTV with subtitles so viewers could understand him. This meant that pop audiences were able to embrace the reggae musician's mumbled tale of being snitched on.
  • Snow's first single was "Lonely Monday Morning," where he raps about his time in jail. It was issued with no photo so listeners wouldn't know he was white. "Informer" was his next single, which was followed with "Girl I've Been Hurt." That one reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, but Snow was banned from touring the US due to his criminal record. His career lost momentum, but he had some success in Canada in 2002 with "Everybody Wants to Be Like You," which peaked at #2, a higher position than "Informer" reached in his native country.
  • Five other reggae (or at least reggae-influenced) songs hit #1 on the Hot 100 before Snow got there: "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, "I Shot The Sheriff" by Eric Clapton, "The Tide Is High" by Blondie, "Red Red Wine" by UB40 and "Close To You" by Maxi Priest. This means that four of the first six reggae chart-toppers in America were by white artists.
  • "Informer" hit #1 in America on March 13, 1993. The following week, it stayed on top while "Oh Carolina" by Shaggy hit #1 in the UK, marking the first time that different reggae songs have held the top spot in both the US and UK.
  • In 2019 Snow linked up with Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee to record "Con Calma," a re-imagining of "Informer." The updated interpretation features new lyrics about a girl who uses her feminine charms and is a good dancer. It returned Snow to the Hot 100 for the first time in 16 years, eventually peaking at #22.
  • Following the success of the "Informer" remix, Daddy Yankee and Katy Perry teamed up to release a new version of "Con Calma." The track contains new lyrics written and sung by Perry and was released on April 19, 2019.

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