Prior to Eminem, Snow was the most commercially successful white rap artist. His single, Informer, off of his debut album 12 Inches of Snow, topped the Billboard singles charts for seven weeks in 1993.
Snow was born Darrin O'Brien. He was born in Toronto, Canada in 1971 to an impoverished family from the Allenbury projects. Snow grew up there, with his formative years being filled with Grandmaster Flash, the Sugar Hill Gang, and especially Bob Marley. However, his true love in his early years was Kiss.
As he reached his teen years, Snow's interest in music continued to grow and he dreamed of being a musician. He became heavily involved in the Toronto music scene and became a frequent visitor at most of the musical clubs in Toronto. He was especially active in the reggae scene, where he began to perform; he took the styles of Junior Reed and others and integrated them into his own sound.
Snow began to be heavily involved in the street life and was labeled as a "problem child." He dropped out of school after the eighth grade and began to run with a tough crowd. In 1990, at the age of 19, Snow was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Since the Toronto legal system didn't have much interest in the case, as they didn't place a high priority on the innocence or guilt of troubled young men, Snow sat in prison for eighteen months awaiting trial. He was eventually acquitted, but while he was in prison, he wrote the lyrics to a song called Informer, perhaps best described as hardcore reggae with a strong dose of rap.
Snow was "discovered" in New York City by MC Shan, who dubbed him S.N.O.W (Superb.Notorious.Outrageous.Whiteboy). Shan was quick to snap up the young man quickly after their meeting; upon hearing a rough version of Informer, Shan knew a hit when he heard it. He quickly got Snow signed to Warner Bros.' subsidiary East/West in late 1992, recorded the full album 12 Inches of Snow, and made videos for Informer and Lonely Monday Morning.
While Warner Bros. prepared the album for release, Snow returned to Canada to serve a short sentence for an assault charge. The first single from 12 Inches of Snow, Lonely Monday Morning, was released without Snow able to make any sort of publicity rounds at all, so Warner Bros. held back on promoting Snow until the second single, Informer.
It hit like a bomb in March 1993, eventually sitting atop the Billboard singles charts for seven weeks in March/April/May 1993; the video was played heavily on MTV, and it looked as though Snow was in place to build a long career. His follow-up single, Girl I've Been Hurt, cracked the top twenty. However, after making the publicity rounds and conducting a short tour, Snow took his money and went home for a year. With Warner Bros. practically going crazy for a follow-up album, Snow instead chose to return to his earlier life for most of 1994, finally putting together a weak sophomore release, Murder Love, in 1995. It sold well and had a major international hit (Sexy Girl), but nothing like the multiplatinum success of his debut.
After The Fame
Snow is still signed to East/West and is still releasing albums. 2002's Mind on the Moon, Snow's fifth album, features more of the rap/rock/reggae that Snow is known for, but a bit "different," with some new studio tricks added. Snow himself refers to his sound of his last few albums as "soda". He's still living in Toronto, but rarely tours, mostly keeping to himself. He will forever be known as a one-hit wonder, with Informer making him very famous for a short time in 1993.
12 Inches of Snow (1993)
Murder Love (1995)
Mind on the Moon (2002)