We’re counting down the Huffington Post’s declaration of Canada’s Best 100 Songs Ever, and at #96 is Snow’s “Informer.”
Now, it’s not that I disparage Darrin Kenneth O’Brien’s mad rap skills; they’re quite formidable. I respect the man’s ability, and while this is a hugely recognizable track that enjoyed tremendous chart success in 1993, I just cannot tell someone, with a straight face, that this is one of the finest musical works to come out of my country across all of history. It’s a flash in the pan, and I cannot understand, musically or lyrically, why this song has made this list.
Snow was born and raised in the North York area of Toronto, where he grew up amongst Jamaican immigrant families who introduced him to reggae music, which he revelled in. There’s no doubt that he knows the sound and the nuances of that genre.
“Informer,” the song and its success alike, are equally charming stories. Briefly, Snow had met the producer M.C. Shan while vacationing in Queens, New York, in 1992. They collaborated on a four-song demo, and Snow, through an introduction provided by Shan, ended up signed to Motor Jam Records. Shortly after, Snow began serving an eight-month sentence for assault, so while “Informer” attracted radio and MuchMusic airplay, its writer and performer was in a Toronto prison.
The song itself is based on an different incident, from 1989, when Snow was charged with two counts of attempted murder. At that time, Snow was detained in Toronto for a year before seeing the charge reduced to aggravated assault. He was eventually acquitted and freed, and in a later interview referred to the event as “a couple of bar fights.”
Said bar fights inspired such lyrics as in the chours:
Informer, you no say “daddy, me Snow, me I’ll go blame”
A licky boom-boom down
Detective-mon said daddy me Snow me stab someone down the lane
A licky boom-boom down
Look, I majored in English, and maybe I have my head in some righteous place about what constitutes poetry, but I can’t put my head around “lickety boom-boom” as a representation of Canada’s best. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments if you disagree or understand this in a way I don’t. In the meantime, the original video eventually had subtitles added, because people found the track to be incomprehensible.
Regardless, the song spent seven weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. It also won the Juno Award for “Best Reggae Recording” in 1994, making me wonder if Canada hadn’t yet realized yet what reggae was. While reggae purists, and the cast of In Living Colour including Jim Carrey, decried the watered-down, commercialized sound of this song, it places twice in the Guinness Book of World Records: As best-selling reggae single in US history, and as the highest charting reggae single in history. Sorry, Mr. Marley.
To his credit, Snow has spearheaded multiple fundraising efforts in support of cancer research, after losing his common law wife to the illness in 2009, and he’s started “Pure Snow NGO,” a non-profit that supports tenants in social housing. He was also asked by his fan Drew Carey to record a reggae version of The Drew Carey Show‘s theme, which opened seasons eight and nine.
Like I said, I don’t disparage Snow, his talents, or his great achievements. I just cannot put my head around this being one of the country’s finest songs ever.