“Informer” by Snow

Snow is mostly remembered now for his superficial similarities to Vanilla Ice, which seem almost uncanny if you have a sufficiently shallow knowledge of both performers, and when people mock him today, it’s usually in that context. In reality, he was a more credible artist than Vanilla Ice, but not by much. Many people today incorrectly think he was a white rapper, probably because of the Vanilla Ice parallels, but in reality, he was a not-very-authentic novelty act who was at least nominally part of the Reggae genre. Now, upbeat Pop-Reggae can certainly go awry (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, “Rude”), but it has its place, and even Reggae giants like Bob Marley indulged in it now and again (e.g. “Three Little Birds (Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be All Right)”). The problem is that this isn’t what Snow was going for—he was clearly attempting down-and-dirty, ‘edgy’ Reggae, the genre’s equivalent to Gangsta Rap, and he had neither the intimidating persona or the musical authenticity to pull it off. Yes, his personal background made him sound like a pretty credible choice for this kind of thing (he grew up in a predominantly Black slum neighborhood and was basically a professional criminal before getting into the music business), but that doesn’t change the fact that his actual music sounded painfully watered-down. On top of that, he certainly didn’t look the part of a convincing thug whether he was one or not, which in the era of MTV mattered more than you might think. These very qualities probably helped him launch a single big hit with what sounded like a novelty song (the Jamaican slang in the lyrics sounded like comical nonsense to American ears, and the high-speed delivery of the lyrics make most of the song unintelligible anyway), but they made it pretty much impossible for him to have a respectable career in the Reggae genre. The saddest part is that I don’t think Snow intended to be a novelty act at all…I think he really wanted to be a credible Reggae musician, but a combination of bad luck and his own lack of qualifications just sent him in that direction.

Verdict: This song is moderately amusing as a novelty song, I suppose, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t really meant to be one, and as any kind of serious Reggae effort, it is a dismal failure. And even then, if you really need an ironically upbeat white Reggae Pop song with comically threatening lyrics, Sublime’s “Santeria” pulled off that concept a thousand times better.

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