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Informer

Informer by krin

Date Aired
July 22, 2014
Running Time
13:09
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Todd plays "Informer" on the piano.

SNOW - INFORMER
A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: So, to recap for those of you who haven't watched the last couple episodes, the top two songs in the country right now are, 1. [brief clips of MAGIC! - "Rude"...] a reggae song made by Canadians, and 2., [...and Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX - "Fancy"] a white person affecting the vocal mannerisms of black people in a highly questionable manner. [Well...] The time is right.

Video for "Informer"
Snow: Informer
You know say Daddy Snow me, I'm gonna blame
A licky boom boom down

Todd: [blabbering to the song, leading into...] A licky boom boom down

Snow: Informer
You know say Daddy Snow me, I'm gonna blame

Todd (VO): Yeah, the '90s were a good time for [brief clips of Kris Kross - "Jump!", Barenaked Ladies - "One Week", and TLC - "Waterfalls"] rapid fire, hard-to-karaoke pop jams, but even people who can do...

Todd: ..."It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" from memory without stuttering don't dare to take on "Informer".

Todd (VO): Not only does it go faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on cocaine, the words themselves didn't seem to make any sense.

Snow: Yes say Daddy Me Snow me I feel cool and deadly

Todd (VO): People might have assumed it was 'cause the song was from some foreign country, and they would be right, although that country was a little further north than they realize. They probably expected this to be from some dreadlocked Rasta, not a guy who looked like a forgotten 90210 cast member. And his name was Snow, for God's sakes. It was like he went,...

Todd: ..."what's a name that'll get across as quickly as possible that I'm white and Canadian? [picture of white guy next to Canadian flag shoveling...] Snow! Of course!"

But more than the song itself, what really got me interested in "Informer" [clip of...] was the parody that Jim Carrey did when he was on In Living Color; I caught it on YouTube recently.

Jim Carrey: Imposter
I'm just a middle-class white guy from Toronto

Todd (VO): Now, I thought this was just gonna be another send-up of a pop buffoon like they did for [brief clips of parodies of...] Milli Vanilli and Vanilla Ice, but this was a lot more than that.

Jim Carrey: I should paint my face and start belting out "Mammy!"

Todd (VO): The In Living Color guys didn't think this guy was funny.

Todd: They were offended.

Todd (VO): To them, Snow was a disgusting minstrel show act who stole and watered down black culture, and embodied everything wrong with the hypocritical double standards of a racist society and record industry.

Todd: [whoa] Holy shit, that's a lot of heavy stuff to throw on...

Todd (VO): ..."Informer", of all things!

Todd: I was just looking for [picture of Damon Wayans as...] "Homey the Clown" videos. Goddamn.

Snow: Intelligent, yes she gentle and irie

Todd (VO): I...may have bitten off more than I can chew here.

Todd: And to top it off, I don't actually know that much about reggae. Well, too late to change the topic now. Prepare to licky boom boom down, everyone. [Laughs at the lyric] What?

Snow: A licky boom boom down

Before the hit

Picture of Snow

Todd (VO): Snow's real name is Darrin O'Brien. He's of Irish descent, and he's from Toronto.

Todd: He actually says so in his big hit.

Snow: Where me-a born is-a the one Toronto

Todd (VO): Not that anyone could tell.

Todd: Now, he says he got into reggae music because he...

Aerial view of Toronto

Todd (VO): ...grew up in public housing in a pretty diverse neighborhood, and a lot of his friends were actually Jamaican immigrants who eventually encouraged him to give music a shot. [performance on The Word] The name Snow was bestowed on him by his friends because he was a white boy and all, and I think, in retrospect, they gave him a bad stage name.

Todd: 'Cause, you know, there was this other white guy with a really white name.

Clip of Vanilla Ice - "Play That Funky Music"
Vanilla Ice: Go white boy, go white boy, go

Todd (VO): Look, the comparison between Snow and Vanilla Ice is pretty unavoidable. They were both white boys making black music; [side-by-side pictures of Vanilla Ice next to a vanilla ice cream cone, and Snow next to a snowman] they had stage names that emphasized their whiteness.

Todd: They even had kinda similar faces.

Still from "Informer"

Todd (VO): Like, you know, take off the glasses, [pasted-on Johnny Bravo hair] doof up the hair a little bit, he'd make a pretty decent Vanilla Ice decoy.

Todd: And the sad thing is, I wouldn't call the comparison very fair.

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): Unlike Vanilla Ice, Snow actually did come from the projects. He did have that rough, gangsta background. He did a couple stints in jail. And it didn't give him a shred of street cred because [brief clip of "Ice Ice Baby"] Vanilla Ice claimed to have all those things and he was a complete liar, so everyone assumed Snow was lying, too.

Todd: It's really amazing just how much Vanilla Ice ruined being white. God, he sucked. Just the worst man in history.

Picture of Snow

Todd (VO): Okay, anyway, one of his DJ friends took him to New York and introduced him to old-school rapper [single cover of "I Pioneered This" by...] MC Shan, and Shan liked him and decided to produce his entire debut album, [cover of...] 12 Inches of Snow. See? It's a pun.

Todd: 'Cause it's a 12-inch record. Get it? 12 Inches of S... It's a dick joke, isn't it? 12... I just got that.

Live performance

Todd (VO): Now, people call Snow a white rapper a lot. Technically, he's not a rapper. But he was using hip-hop style production and working with rappers, so the shoe kinda fits. And his first single was pretty gangsta—it was about, you know, stabbing people, getting arrested.

Todd: Fun fact: right after he recorded his part for that song, he did, in fact, get arrested. Isn't that ironic. [pause] I don't actually care if it's ironic or not, stop commenting.

The big hit

Todd: Snow went to jail for eight months in Canada on an old charge. Eventually, all the guards and inmates said he was getting played on M... [MTV logo quickly scribbled down and replaced with logo for...] MuchMusic. [quick picture of beaver with Canadian flag] He said he didn't believe them at first, they probably got him confused with [picture of...] Marky Mark or something, but yeah, it was him. By the time...

Video for "Informer"

Todd (VO): ...he got out in early 1993, "Informer" was rocketing up the charts, on its way to a #1 spot in the United States.

Todd: This seems absolutely insane to me now.

Snow: Informer
You no say Daddy Me Snow me-a gon' blame
A licky boom boom down
'tective man they say, say Daddy Me Snow me stab someone down the lane
A licky boom boom down

Todd: But you know, 1993 was a weird time. The era of dorky, [brief clips of MC Hammer's...] goofy pop novelties like "U Can't Touch This" and "I'm Too Sexy," that was just about over. [...and Coolio - "Gangsta's Paradise"] And hardcore gangsta rap was about to take over completely. Like, not just in the underground, but like, in the mainstream. And "Informer" hit, like, right in that window of overlap. Oh, and there was this brief little blip of reggae rap that was happening at the time, too, so...

Todd: ...this could've gotten big at absolutely no other time.

Snow: Informer

Todd (VO): And so why this? I mean, this is just gibberish.

Todd: Okay, it's not gibberish, it's the slang of another culture that I'm not a part of. But it's a culture he wasn't a part of either. I mean, come on, right?

Snow: A licky boom boom down

Todd (VO): The only lyrics anyone knows from this is, "licky boom boom down," which [picture of kid sticking tongue out] sounds like a little kid trying to swear. Everything else is a mystery.

Snow: But when I'm-a at a dance and they say, "Where ya come from?"

Todd (VO): It's...it's going too fast. Slow it down. And MTV did re-cut this video with actual subtitles, but even they didn't seem able to keep up.

Snow: Detective man said Daddy Snow I stabbed someone down the lane
A licky boom boom down

Todd: [consulting lyrics] "Detective man said Daddy S..." "Detective man said Daddy..." There's some words missing there, I swear to God.

Todd (VO): "Detective man said Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper a bippity boppity boo."

Todd: According to what I read, "informer licky boom boom down" means something like, "I'm gonna kick that snitch's ass."

Clip from In Living Color

Todd (VO): In Living Color said that Snow got away with it because he was white. I think it's more because no one knew what he was saying.

Todd: Matter of fact, if you do know the words, it's actually softer than you realize.

Snow: So they put me in the back the car at the station

Todd (VO): He gets arrested for a stabbing in the song, but he never says that he did it. And he never takes revenge on the informer, he just threatens to. The first half of the song is just about him getting arrested. In fact, it's the only gangsta song I've ever heard where the narrator gets his anus probed.

Snow: Where they whip down me pants
Look up me bottom

Todd: Yeah, not so hardcore. "Licky boom boom down," indeed.

Todd (VO): And the second half is just him calling his girlfriend and clarifying that he is, in fact, not black.

Snow: Where me-a born is-a the one Toronto

Todd (VO): I...I feel a little at a loss. I mean, I'm not Jamaican, I don't know if he's using any of these slang terms correctly or not.

Todd: Sounds convincing enough to me. Doesn't sound disrespectful, in any case. Doesn't make me offended. It's just...

Snow: People them say I come from Jamaica

Todd: Dude, that's not how you sound!

Todd (VO): We know that's not how you sound! You don't talk like that, your parents don't talk like that.

Todd: It sounds fake! You're a fake! No one buys it!

Clip from Family Guy - "The Kiss Seen Around the World", with Snow's face pasted over Neil's
Holden Caulfield (as listed in credits): You're a phony! Hey, everybody! This guy's a great big phony!

Todd: And when you're trying to be a hard-ass gangsta, the one unforgivable crime is being unconvincing.

Todd (VO): And besides, look, I didn't have to know his skin color to tell you, this is some washed out, sellout reggae. Even compared to, like, Maxi Priest, he sounded like sellout pop. Like, who's gonna say this is their favorite song? Anyone? Why would they? It is, like so many songs I cover, not anything that really resonates; it's just a catchy, stupid novelty to be enjoyed for a few months before evaporating into thin air.

Todd: Too bad no one informed him of that.

The failed follow-up

Video begins for...

Todd: I actually started off my research by listening to Snow's first album, and I got to one song where I was, like, [crosses fingers] "please, oh please let this have been the next single." And sure enough!

..."Girl, I've Been Hurt"
Snow: Girl, I've been hurt
Now I need another lover
You are no
Girl, I've been hurt
Now I need another lover

Todd (VO): Even in a world without Vanilla Ice or where no one cared about his skin color or where he was from, I think this would have been enough to kill his career. Now technically, this was a hit—#19 on Billboard—which might actually make it worse because that means people actually saw this.

Todd: You don't let your first hit be about stabbing police informants, and then you follow it up with "Girl, I've Been Hurt."

Snow: You been acting kinda strange lately
But I already know what's been going on

Todd (VO): I didn't mind his voice on "Informer", but his slow, romantic singing voice is...ugh, it's just whiny. It actually does remind me on Vanilla Ice. And also, look at this. There is no way to look cool and hip in the backwoods Canadian tundra. [Image from Mystery Science Theater 3000 featuring The Final Sacrifice] Ask Rowsdower. I mean, it's nice that he wants to rep for Canada, but I think that was a huge mistake. No one thinks of Canada as a hotbed for urban music.

Todd: Canada let [picture of...] Tom Green have a rap career up there. That's true.

Todd (VO): We, as Americans, have this impression of Canada as this clean, magical place without poverty, crime, major cities, or any other culture besides boring white people.

Todd: That isn't true at all, but that's the impression.

Todd (VO): You say you come from the mean streets of Canada, and unless you mean you took some rough checks in hockey, an American will just laugh.

Todd: Of course, I mean that was back then.

Clip of "Started from the Bottom" by...

Todd (VO): Now that Drake's gotten big, he is bestowing onto Toronto all his hardcore, dirty, gangsta street c...

Todd: [cracking up] Couldn't finish that sentence.

Todd (VO): But there is a reason this was filmed in Canada—he couldn't leave the country. Yeah, remember I said about the arrests? Snow said it was just for a couple of bar fights, but that meant he couldn't get a green card. He couldn't even cross the border.

Todd: Sucks for him.

Clip of "Runway"

Todd (VO): He did release a couple other singles from this album, but none of them charted. It's hard to get your song on the charts when you literally can't promote it in America, the biggest market for it. And look, the shelf life for rappers in the '90s was pretty bad. And even at his biggest, no one really bought into Snow; even for a white guy, he didn't look the part, with his dorky, hipster, wire-rim glasses.

Snow: Step to Snow you got problem
Because you better clear the runway

Todd (VO): Dude, you look like you're angry because you were up all night doing research for your grad thesis.

Did he ever do anything else?

Todd: Look, Canada looks after their own. [Logo for CBC Radio] The radio stations are literally required by law to play a certain percentage of Canadian artists. So as you could imagine, in his home country, Snow did...not very well.

Video for "Sexy Girl"
Snow: She's got me walkin', talkin', drinkin', sleepin'

Todd (VO): His next two albums tanked, even in Canada. It's not like he ever stopped recording, by any means; he just never really found an audience again. You want a good index into how far his star fell? Over the course of the six albums he recorded after "Informer", [logo for the Juno Awards] he was nominated three times by the Canadian Music Awards for...

Todd: ...Best Reggae Recording,...

Todd (VO): ...and lost. All three times, there was...

Todd: ...better Canadian reggae than Snow.

Clip "Joke Thing"
Snow: Six or seven in the morning
And you know I can't stop
I could reach...

Todd (VO): It wasn't all bad news. He developed a major following in [album cover for Cooler Conditions] Japan, of course; and also he once scored a #1 hit in...

Todd: ...you'll never guess, [picture of, colored in the design of its flag...] Jamaica.

Clip of "Anything for You"

Todd (VO): Yeah. I mean, it was a remix version that had actual Jamaican superstars like Buju Banton and Beenie Man on it, but...no, still, this guy, this guy, putting on a fake patois only marginally better than Miss Cleo, had a #1 hit...

Todd: ...in Jamaica.

Clip of "Legal"

Todd (VO): For what it's worth, he did notch a couple more hits in his home country in the early 2000s, and he still recorded some, like, party jams too. And you know what? Nothing says party hip-hop like [brief clip of...] the Trailer Park Boys.

Bubbles (Mike Smith): What do you mean, you didn't put me on the list? That's what I'm doing.

Todd (VO): God, this is Canadian.

Todd: Also, his wife died of cancer in 2009, tragically, and since then, he mostly does work for charities. So...don't you feel bad, watching some jackass who's never accomplished anything make fun of him on the Internet.

Did he deserve better?

Todd: Well...[struggles with it before deciding...] no, not really.

Todd (VO): I found Snow a lot less hateable than his reputation would suggest. He wasn't nearly the obnoxious, incompetent twerp that Vanilla Ice was. And is. And Snow was, in fact, very respectful of the art form he co-opted. He recorded many times in Jamaica, and I never thought his love of reggae was shallow or insincere.

Todd: But...I don't know.

Todd (VO): Snow is not a guy I'd really want to stick my neck out for, you know? Like, the fake accent, man, it's hard to get around.

Todd: And "licky boom boom down," what are you supposed to do with that?

Gets up and leaves

Snow: A licky boom boom down


Closing tag song: Asshole Abused - "Informer"

THE END
"Informer" is owned by East West Records
This video is owned by me

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