Gone are real-life tale about incarceration and being tossed in the back of a police cruiser that inevitably wound up on SNOW's 1992 debut, 12 Inches of Snow. Instead, the multi-platinum artist, whose previous three studio albums and greatest hits package have sold upwards of eight million albums worldwide, is older, wiser, mellower and sober.
For the new album, the first for VIRGIN/EMI, SNOW created his lyrics like a screenwriter devises a plot and characters. From the top 5 single, "Everybody Wants To Be Like You", to the flirty party piece "Scrub Off" and Latin smoked "Crazy Feelin'", he explains, "When you can make up the words, you have more to work with. I can put the blue shirt on the guy, instead of the yellow shirt he always wears."
SNOW had never used the phrase "what a joke thing" until he and childhood friend, Robbie Patterson, were writing what became the lazy reggae rub "Joke Thing", complete with chuckle and scratches. He has never had his drink spiked by a woman, like the poor sod in "Funky Martini". And, for the record, the reference to "scrub" in "Scrub Off", is literal, not a jump at teenage slang.
Born Darrin O'Brien, he grew up in the Allenbury projects in North York, a subsidized neighbourhood of Greater Toronto Area. He dropped out of school in grade 8 and got mixed up with a bad crowd. "In my parking lot alone, there would be like 30 people fighting, drinking, smashing ambulance drivers," SNOW says. Those were his role models.
SNOW owes a lot to those friends, both as a negative and positive influence. As the fanaticism he had at age 12 for the glam rock band Kiss waned, he would, at age 15, begin another obsession, this time for reggae music. "I used to get tapes that were dubbed over like 50 times before they came to me. I"d listen and I'd hear a word and rewind it and that's all I'd do", he remembers.
Soon, he had mastered the Jamaican patois and the rapid-fire skill of "toasting". He also mastered being an inebriated menace to society, and ended up with two bum charges for attempted murder which landed him in the Metro East Detention Centre while awaiting trial. He was later acquitted.
That didn't last long. He went up on charges of assault causing bodily harm for another incident and pleaded guilty. While vacationing in New York City, hanging out with "the dreads" on the street, word got out to producer MC Shan that this young white suburbanite could rap and sing. He was hauled into the producer's recording studio. "I had never been in a studio before. I didn't know what harmonies were", SNOW muses.
While on bail, SNOW finished the album, got a record deal with East/West/Warner Bros., made a video for the single "Informer", then returned to Canada to serve at the Maplehurst Correctional Centre. By the time he was released, so was his album, 12 Inches of Snow.
"Informer" sat at #1 on the Billboard Singles Chart for 7 weeks straight in 1993 and is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records twice a_" as the Biggest Selling Raggae Single in U.S. History and Highest Charting Reggae Single in UK history. Snow's second cousin, Steven Page, used to cover the classic in the Barenaked Ladies live shows. "If it wasn't for Informer, One Week would have never been a hit", Steven says.
His accomplishments didn't end there. "Girl I've Been Hurt" (also from 12 Inches Of Snow) peaked at #20 on the Billboard charts. The album went triple-platinum in both Canada and the United States. "Sexy Girl", from SNOW's 1995 sophomore album, Murder Love, charted at #1 in fifteen countries and "Anything For You" became a massive hit in Jamaica where the record was made. His third album, Justuss, 1997, was named after his daughter.
He continued to write and record at his own Deep Sound Studio, located next to the house he bought for his mother. Collaborating with a variety of songwriters including treble charger's Greig Nori (who produced "Everything's Fine" and who guests n "Little Did They Know"), Mark Jackson (ex-BTK), and writer/mixer/producer Mike Tucker (N'Sync, Backstreet Boys), he created his new sound which he laughingly refers to as "soda". He also co-starred in the Robert DeNiro produced feature film "Prison Song", starring Q-tip, Mary J. Blige and Elvis Costello. The film is scheduled for release in Spring 2001.
SNOW remains an internationally recognized recording star and is often asked for his autograph; a gesture which makes the shy singer a little embarrassed. "I like that I touch people with my music" he says, "but why would they want my autograph? I should ask for their autograph as much as they ask for mine because they're just as big a part in the success. I'm making it but they're buying it."