April 1, 2010
Snow - 12 Inches Of Snow (January 19, 1993)
Darrin O'Brien, best known as Conan O'Brien's uncle's nephew's mailman's daughter's dog's chew toy's brother and as the reggae artist Snow, released his debut record 12 Inches Of Snow sans irony in 1993. With this album, he proceeded to take over the wide world of Canadian reggae music.
Asserting your dominance over a musical subgenre that doesn't actually exist isn't as easy as one would believe. In fact, the adjustment to platinum-selling artists made Snow a bit antsy. He soon found himself freestyling in front of mall fountains, in an effort to prove that there wasn't anybody that could best him at his own game, and also because his obsessive-compulsive disorder required him to be close to a body of water at all times. His mentor and producer MC Shan, of "The Bridge" and "Fuck You KRS-One" fame, was later quoted as saying that he believed letting Darrin create his own kind of music may have been a mistake, not just because Canada inadvertently drew attention away from reggae's homeland of Jamaica, but because he was really, truly drunk the day that recording commenced, and he thought that Snow was just fucking with him.
Darrin is the rare Canadian artist with street cred: along with Ryan Reynolds, Snow has actually spent time locked up in the bing. He sat through his prison sentence immediately after recording his final verses for his debut, and MC Shan and some other producers spent the year in postproduction, fine-tuning the pacing of the final product and generally making sure that Darrin sounded somewhat credible behind the mic. Shortly after he was released, his soon to be number one single "Informer", based upon his mispronounciation of the word "Scrabble", hit radio airwaves, confronting listeners with a combination of confusion, anger, sexual ambiguity, a sense of loss, and random violence.
12 Inches Of Snow, which in no way was intended to also make you think of the size of our host's cock, went on to sell more than a million copies in the United States alone, solidifying Snow as the reggae artist of the future while ensuring that MC Shan would have a career post-hip hop. Sadly, his popularity peaked approximately three minutes after "Informer" hit MTV: follow-up singles were met with indifference, and Snow very nearly resorted to assaulting somebody else in order to go back to prison and build up some more credibility for his next project. He had even narrowed his list down to three people: his pastor, the corpse of Bob Marley, and MC Skat Kat.
1. HEY PRETTY LOVE
Darrin kicks things off with a sweet slow jam aimed at an anonymous female. Over a MC Shan instrumental that actually isn't bad, Snow croons his first verse, and then straight spits for the other two. His penchant for repeating entire bars (as evidenced in the second verse) reminded me of the innovative Texas rhyme slinger Mike Jones, who I suppose isn't as innovative anymore, considering that a white guy from Toronto came up with his entire shtick fucking twelve years prior. If you play this for your girl, you're guaranteed to get laid, even though she won't have a clue as to what now is actually saying.
The combination of a familiar breakbeat, the sound of ringing bells, and some minimalist scratching is actually highly appealing. While I can't shake the feeling that this instrumental is missing one or two additional herbs or spices, it still sounds fairly good, and Darrin runs rampant all over it, singing what appears at face value to be a love song (but is actually about fucking a motherfucker up! Also, the typesetter for the album artwork seems to have added an extra “a” into the title). Shit like this could actually lead listeners to feel that 12 Inches Of Snow won't be a waste of your time.
3. CHAMPION SOUND
A note to all aspiring rappers: if you decide to name one of your tracks “Champion Sound”, you had better make damn sure that the beat sounds as though it could double as the victory music for your local sports club and/or for when the Jedi return home successfully. Don't make the mistake that Darrin does on here. The weirdest thing about this track is that, while the instrumental is bland, it still manages to drown out Snow's faux-Jamaican patois. How in the hell does that happen?
4. LONELY MONDAY MORNING
Shan's beat is simple and of no consequence, and the otherworldly crooning emanating from the secret forest allegedly located just outside of the studio kind of freaked me out, but overall, “Lonely Monday Morning” is mildly interesting, mainly because the lyrics are recycled from “Informer”, which appears later on. (Or perhaps “Informer” lifted its lyrics from this track. Aside from me personally contacting Snow, I'll never know which came first, and since he's not returning my calls after borrowing my lawn mower, I don't expect to receive an answer anytime soon.) This may as well have been a remix for Snow's lone hit, although in that case he wouldn't have been able to utilize such a cool-ass title. Oh well.
5. DRUNKEN STYLES (FEAT DJ PRINCE)
The title was promising, but Snow fails to deliver. There is hardly anything on here that would imply that Darrin was inebriated while he performed this song in the booth, except for maybe the fact that it exists in the first place. It's fairly obvious at this point that Snow has a lot of respect for reggae music, unlike all of the other Ras Trents out at various Cold Stone Creamery locations, so 12 Inches Of Snow is already much more interesting than it has any right to be.
6. GIRL, I'VE BEEN HURT
I seem to remember this being a single, but my mind may be playing tricks on me. An emotionally wounded Darrin sits in a four-cornered room staring at candles, trying to convince himself that he doesn't care that his girl fucked around on him. Wisely, nothing on “Girl, I've Been Hurt” implies that Snow has a jealous streak that could have (this is just speculation, folks) led to a possible jail bid for assault. This could have been worse.
7. INFORMER (FEAT MC SHAN)
Also known as “the track that holds the Guinness records for both highest-charting reggae single and best-selling reggae single” and “the only Snow song that you know”. All bullshit aside, I liked this song back in the day, and I still kind of do: it's catchy, as Darrin's lyrics travel through the peaks and valleys of the beat, and I've always had a soft spot for the video, with its helpful bouncing ball aiding America in knowing just what the fuck Snow was talking about. (For the record, the song is about how appalling snitches are “a licky boom boom down”. I'm telling you, with repetition in his rhyme repertoire and his allegiance to the Stop Snitching campaign, Darrin was fucking ahead of his time.) I'm guessing that a lot of you two forgot that MC Shan also appeared on “Informer”; I sure as hell did.
8. CREATIVE CHILD
For the duration of the first verse (and part of the second), Snow slows his flow down to a baby's crawl, so for the very first time on 12 Inches Of Snow, he's easy to understand. MC Shan's old school beat also helps the medicine go down, as it sounds like something that Slick Rick could turn into a screenplay easily. Snow manages to lose me midway through the second verse, but that's okay, as this song was still pretty goddamn entertaining.
9. LADY WITH THE RED DRESS
Shan's instrumental is actually really fucking good, but sadly, I couldn't keep a straight face when Snow's vocals kicked in: his singing fucked up my qi, it was that off. So I had to spin this one twice in order to write about it, and the second time I realized that this is basically Darrin's attempt at a freestyle song a la Debbie Deb and Stevie B, albeit with far fewer BPMs than what you're used to, and when you look at it like that, this actually isn't bad. No, really.
10. UHH IN YOU
Unlike this song, which is just horrible. Snow could be spitting about world peace and a foolproof way to attain it for all I know: the chorus is so fucking ridiculous that the song quickly loses all credibility. Lots of rappers, singers, and reggae artists write about sex, but Snow takes lovemaking and reduces it down to two syllables that make the act sound more appalling than forcing your dick to fit into a pencil sharpener. Pass.
11. CAN'T GET ENOUGH
Clearly, Darrin has moved on from the chick who cheated on him, having found another lover (finally!) whom he cannot, um, get enough of. Snow seems to sound more interesting when he's talking about getting dumped or murdering snitches, so as such, I couldn't buy a single word of this track. But hey, good for him for finding someone new within the span of five tracks.
12. EASE UP
Darrin presents his version of a (pre-scandal) Milli Vanilli song that doesn't exist, chastising an unnamed female for being overbearing, too fucking depressed, and addicted to drugs, which are character traits that Snow can definitely do without in his life. I wonder what happened to the chick from the previous track that forced her into prostitution. They seemed so happy together! It's sad when you think about it, and it's even sadder when you overthink it and realize that Snow is talking about a fictional character. This was an interesting way to cap the evening, albeit on a down note.
The CD version of 12 Inches Of Snow came with two additional bonus tracks.
13. 50 WAYS (FEAT MC SHAN)
I can think of two reasons why “50 Ways” is classified as a bonus track: (1) it doesn't fit in with the rest of 12 Inches Of Snow, and (2) it sucks balls. Also, this homage to Paul Simon (no, seriously) claims that there are “at least fifty ways to flip a style”, but I only counted three. I hope this didn't leave the door open for an unnecessary Joel Schumacher-directed sequel.
14. LONELY MONDAY MORNING (REMIX)
Shan's tweaked instrumental works better than the original take did, as it gives the track a sense of urgency that its predecessor was lacking. Still, it's hard to get into a remix to a song that was essentially an alternate take of an entirely different song. Wow, that last sentence made my head hurt a little.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Running twelve tracks deep (fourteen if you have the compact disc version, and seven if you still have your 8-Track), 12 Inches Of Snow solidifies Darrin's standing in the Canadian reggae game, of which there are only a handful of participants, Snow being the lone white guy. MC Shan attached his cart to a quality horse: much of 12 Inches Of Snow knocks just like your landlord wondering where the rent check is, why your apartment smells like a Cypress Hill concert, and why entire sections of the carpeting are covered in Cheeto dust and ejaculate. (Hey, I'm not here to judge what you do with your personal time and your processed cheese snack products.) Snow proves himself to be more than just a novelty act constructed by his label, East West, to sell more reggae albums: dude has a catchy flow, with syllables leaking out of his mouth like excess water when performing a spit take on stage with the Upright Citizens Brigade. A couple of songs fall on the side of “What the fuck am I listening to?”, but you can say that about essentially every album ever made. I can't say much for the remainder of Snow's catalog, because like most other music fans in the States, I stopped caring after “Informer” faded in popularity, but at least for one hour, Darrin O'Brien held my undivided attention.
BUY OR BURN? There's enough heat from Snow (ha!) to warrant a purchase. So go ahead and give it a try. MC Shan will thank you, and every purchase of 12 Inches Of Snow will only piss off KRS One even more.
BEST TRACKS: “Runaway”; “Informer”; “Creative Child”; “Hey Pretty Love”