This biggest-selling reggae recording of all time was written and performed by Darrin O’Brien (SNOW) from a multi-ethnic Toronto ’hood, with contributions from American hip-hop Producer /Artist Mc Shan.
Informer details the story of Snow’s arrest and incarceration after a fight that turned violent, and him not turning into an “Informer” by pointing out the person who did the crime. Darrin O’Brien served several months before being acquitted; during that time, he wrote and sang Informer to entertain his fellow inmates. He told “Maclean’s” magazine, “That gave me courage. I knew that if I could rock that crowd, I could rock any crowd.”
(Snow was not the first chart-topping Canadian musician to begin his music career while incarcerated. The celebrated blues vocalist and songwriter David Clayton-Thomas had begun singing during a stint in solitary confinement, similarly finding purpose in entertaining his troubled fellows. Clayton-Thomas’s song Spinning Wheel was inducted into the CSHF in 2007 and he is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.)
As a Caucasian Canadian kid singing authentic-sounding Jamaican patois to a reggae beat, Snow was a definite novelty. After his release from prison, and while visiting New York City, he met producer MC Shan [Shawn Moltke], who agreed to record him in a basement studio. MC Shan remembered, “It amazed me to see this Caucasian guy know reggae as real as he did.” Fellow producer Edmond Leary also recalled, “He definitely was a talented kid…. Snow was the Eminem of reggae.”
Shan immediately collaborated and helped produce a full album, entitled “12 Inches of Snow,” and a few music videos, and helped Snow sign with Motor Jam Records.
Snow told SOCAN’s “Words & Music”, “I was just having fun. And I think that’s what made it. Because I actually wasn’t expecting it to be big.”
But it did become big – very, very big. When the Informer video began airing on MTV in early 1993, listeners were mystified and confused by Snow’s rapid patois, so subtitles were added (a first for MTV). It quickly became a world-wide hit, reigning at Billboard’s Hot 100 No. 1 spot for not one, not two, but seven consecutive weeks, charting for 19 weeks in total, and reaching No. 2 in the U.K. and No. 1 in several European countries. In Canada the song was RPM’s No. 9 and No. 1 on The Record chart.
By that time, however, Snow again found himself in a Toronto prison, this time for assault causing bodily harm, and had to enjoy his success by watching his video on the prison lounge television with his fellow inmates. Producer Leary said, “The night we finished his last track he went off to jail in Canada. He did about eight months.”
From these inauspicious beginnings, the jailhouse success Informer went on to take the 1994 JUNO for best reggae recording of the year. The album was nominated for album of the year, and Snow was also nominated for best male vocalist.
Since its initial run, the irrepressible Informer remains in the public ear: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler danced to it in “Sisters,” and it has been featured on “The Tonight Show” and “American Idol.” And, with imitation being the most sincere form of flattery, Canadian comedian and actor Jim Carrey hilariously parodied it as Imposter.
Informer, itself the most unlikely of hits, enjoyed new life in 2020 with the release of its Spanish-language remake, the runaway Con Calma by rapper Daddy Yankee. The energetic Con Calma earned a SOCAN Pop Music award and was nominated for a Latin Grammy as well winning several Latino Billboards, iHeart award, Ascap award, AMA’s awards , YouTube Most Viewed Video of 2019-2020 now with over 2.7 billion views. Also gaining over 1 billion streams on streaming platforms like Spotify . Which Katy Perry sang on the Remix along side Snow & Daddy Yankee also achieving over 100 miliion streams and views on the remix of the lyric video with Katy Perry.
Snow’s Informer earned a SOCAN Classic award in 2017.
The global success of Informer – a massive hit born out of violence, poverty and strife – empowered Snow to turn his life around. Nor does he now celebrate crime and violence as some artists do. As he told SOCAN: “I don’t hide the fact away that I’ve been to jail – a lot – and I’ve been in a lot of trouble growing up…but I don’t portray that in my music. I don’t come on ‘I’m a killer, I’m a gangster.’ We don’t need that in music. We see that enough on the news and the streets; we don’t need that in music.”
Born in Toronto in 1969, Snow (Darrin Kenneth O’Brien) grew up in a largely West Indian Toronto neighbourhood, where he absorbed the rhythmic pulse and patois of Jamaican reggae. He has released several albums and is known for the hit Anything For You. His Everybody Wants to Be Like You won a MuchMusic Video award.
Producer and keyboard player Edmond Leary (of Long Island, New York) afterwards worked to help the homeless and to entertain children in New York City parks. Shawn Moltke (MC Shan), born in New York City in 1965, is an American producer and rap/hip-hop and R&B artist.