Informer (song)

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"Informer"
Snow Informer (Single Cover).jpg
Single by Snow
from the album 12 Inches of Snow
ReleasedAugust 20, 1992
Recorded1992
Genre
Length4:28
LabelEastWest
Songwriter(s)
  • Edmond Leary
  • Darrin O'Brien
  • Shawn Moltke
  • Terri Moltke
  • Jeffrey Silva (associate writer)
Producer(s)MC Shan
Snow singles chronology
"Informer"
(1992)
"Girl I've Been Hurt"
(1994)
Music video
"Informer" on YouTube

"Informer" is a 1992 song by Canadian reggae musician Snow from his debut album 12 Inches of Snow. Produced by MC Shan, who also contributed a rap verse, the single was a chart-topping hit, spending seven consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was his biggest hit in the United Kingdom, where it reached number two, behind two different number-one singles. In 2007, the song was ranked number 84 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s.[1] Conversely, the song was included in Pitchfork's 2010 list of "the seven worst U.S. number one singles of the 90s".[2] The song is well known for the line "a licky boom boom down"[3] and for Snow's fast toasting and often unintelligible lyrics.

In 2019, Puerto Rican singer, songwriter and rapper Daddy Yankee released a reimagination of "Informer" as "Con Calma" together with Snow, who recorded new parts. The Spanish-language remake topped the charts of 20 countries and reached the top 10 of 10 others.

History and content[edit]

"That's a jail song. It's not, 'Baby, I love you.' I wrote that song in jail about informers. But people didn't know what I was singing."

Snow talking about the song.[4]

Snow grew up as Darrin O'Brien in Toronto, Canada. He was raised on classic rock, but after Jamaicans moved into his neighborhood, due to then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's revised immigration policies, reggae became a huge part of his life.[4]

In 1992, while on vacation in Queens, New York, Snow met American rapper and record producer MC Shan, and the pair produced a four-song demo.[5] MC Shan then introduced Snow to producer–managers Steve Salem and David Eng, who signed him to their Motor Jam Records company, and licensed the music to East West Records.[5] Shortly thereafter, Snow began serving an eight-month sentence in Toronto for assault.[5] "Informer" began getting radio and MuchMusic airplay while he was incarcerated.[5]

The song is based on a separate 1989 incident when Snow was charged with two counts of attempted murder.[5] At the time, he was detained for a year in Toronto before the charges were reduced to aggravated assault, and he was eventually acquitted and freed.[5]

In a 1999 interview, he referred to his criminal history as "a couple of bar fights."[5]

Critical reception[edit]

AllMusic editor Ron Wynn called the song "patois-laced", and noted further that it "shattered the myth that pop audiences wouldn't embrace any tune whose lyrics weren't in pristine English; when his video was released, it included a rolling translation at the bottom."[6] M.R. Martinez from Cashbox stated that it "demonstrate Snow's unique delivery which sounds less imitative than some dancehallers or rappers from the bonafide hood."[7] Havelock Nelson from Entertainment Weekly deemed the song as "slippery and tuneful".[8] Swedish newspaper Expressen described it as "hard-boiled Jamaican crime fiction".[9] Katrine Ring from Gaffa stated that it is an "excellent pop-number".[10] Alan Jones from Music Week complimented "this infectious, instantly appealing dancehall" song for achieving "the right mix between reggae and hip-hop." He added that it "should make quite a splash here."[11] James Hamilton from the magazine's RM Dance Update called it "excellent" and "jaunty".[12] The Network Forty commented, "You'd swear you were listening to a Jamaican straight out of Kingston, but this 22-year-old white male hails from Toronto's ghetto. Along with mixer DJ Prince and record producer and rapper MC Shan, Snow creates a hooky low-groover with infectious Dancehall toasting."[13] Orlando Sentinel labeled it as "dancable".[14] People Magazine said that Snow's "incarcerations flavor the pumped up, hip-hop-infused single 'Informer'."[15]

Chart performance[edit]

"Informer" proved to be very successful on the charts globally. In Europe, it peaked at number-one in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as on the Eurochart Hot 100. It managed to climb into the Top 10 also in Austria (number 2), France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands (number 2), Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (number 2). In the latter, the single peaked in its third week at the UK Singles Chart, on March 21, 1993.[16] It was held off reaching the top spot by Shaggy's "Oh Carolina". Outside Europe, it hit number-one in Australia, New Zealand, on the Billboard Hot 100 and in Zimbabwe. "Informer" was awarded with a gold record in Austria and the Netherlands, a silver record in the UK and a platinum record in Germany, New Zealand and the US. In Australia, it received a 2× platinum record.

Music video[edit]

Directed by George Seminara, the music video for the song shows Snow entering a jail cell. His producer and friend, MC Shan, is also featured in the video; he explains how he got into prison by not turning informer. Shan is seen enjoying a sauna with a couple of women. There are bikini clad women throughout and Snow is accompanied by female dancers glossed in black and white. When first shown, the video had no subtitles, but they were added because few people could comprehend what Snow was saying.[citation needed] "Informer" was published on YouTube in September 2019. By September 2020, it had more than 11.6 million views.[17]

One of the dancers is Mona Scott, who would later go into music management, starting Violator Management. She would go on to become owner of Monami Entertainment.[citation needed]

Awards and recognition[edit]

"Informer" won a Juno Award for Best Reggae Recording in 1994.[18] In 2007, the song was ranked number 84 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s.[1] In 2020, Cleveland.com ranked it at number 127 in their list of the best Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song of the 1990s.[19]

Legacy[edit]

Many reggae purists viewed the song, along with the works of Ini Kamoze, Diana King, Shaggy and Shabba Ranks, as another example of "watered down" commercial reggae that rose to international popularity in the 1990s.[20] This song was later re-imagined into Daddy Yankee's hit single Con Calma released in 2019.

The sketch comedy show In Living Color, in a mock video featuring Jim Carrey as Snow, famously parodied the song, retitled "Sus", as well as society that was ready to oppose any Afro-American musicians in benefit of Caucasian protagonists and a culture of "one hit wonder" glamour, similar to his "White White Baby" parody of Vanilla Ice. He also accuses Time Warner of hypocrisy in dropping Ice-T's band Body Count due to their song "Cop Killer", but giving Snow's "cop-hating song", also released under a Warner-affiliated label, a pass because his appearance made it less threatening.[21]

Track listings[edit]

Personnel[edit]

  • Text: Darrin O'Brien, Edmund Leary, Shawn Moltke
  • Producer: MC Shan
  • Executive producer: David Eng, EZ Steve Salem
  • Co-producer: Edmund Leary, John "Jumpstreet" Ficarotta
  • Photography: Melanie Nissen
  • Informer remixer and editor: Rick the Mexican Huerta

Charts and certifications[edit]

Usage in media[edit]

American actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler danced to the song in the 2015 comedy Sisters. Singer Justin Timberlake and television host Jimmy Fallon included it in one of their "History of Rap" medleys on The Tonight Show. Canadian rapper Drake sang a portion of it during a recent Juno Awards tribute to Canadian music. The song was used in the television show Derry Girls. The song was also featured in season 6, episode 12 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia titled "Dee Gives Birth" in 2010.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]