“I was in jail and I had a dream I was flying over all these houses, me and my mother. She was picking out houses. When I got out of jail, the first thing I bought was a car for me and a house for her.” - SNOW
A decade ago, Darrin O’Brien entered prison a troubled young thug and left an international recording star. It was the kind of story a Hollywood screenwriter could hardly have topped, a nigh impossible yet classic tale of uncanny timing and fortune. But it was all very real. And it was exactly the kind of cyclone experience that could have left a youthful talent like O’Brien, better known to the world as SNOW, chewed up in its wake. It didn’t.
Ten years later, SNOW is at the top of his creative game with TWO HANDS CLAPPING, his fifth and most ambitious musical statement yet. Delivering on the instant appeal of his early hits like “Informer” and “Girl I’ve Been Hurt”, TWO HANDS CLAPPING finds SNOW mastering the dancehall reggae he’s best known for, while introducing to the music new levels of pop and R&B melody that make for a sturdy offering from start-to-finish. It’s an album that’ll get dancefloors bumping and lovers grooving – feet tapping and heads nodding. It’s a mature pop album, a pop survivor’s album. It’s a record SNOW has earned.
“I’m at a place in my life right now where I feel like I found myself,” says SNOW. “I found my style of music on this album.”
That self-awareness and confidence is what drives TWO HANDS CLAPPING. “It was just all in stride,” he says. “‘Let’s see if we can come up with something good and have fun,’ instead of trying to make an album.”
Sessions for TWO HANDS CLAPPING were done in freewheeling style in New Jersey, Atlanta, and Miami. In New Jersey, Snow joined forces with producer Danny P (Robbie Williams, Canibus); Tricky and Laney Stewart oversaw the Atlanta sessions; and in Miami Snow worked with producers Tony Kelly (Shaggy, Beenie Man, Sean Paul) and Dave Kelly (Shaggy, Beenie Man, Foxy Brown).
It all started last fall with “Missing You”, a song that came so smoothly SNOW says he could already see the album taking shape.
“Black And Snow” would become the disc’s opening track, and, as the title implies, features tone-setting tradeoffs between reggae singer SNOW and rapper Chris Black. “It was an important start,” SNOW says. “It’s me back singing in more of a reggae style again.”
Another hip-hop-oriented duel, “Whass Up”, came about in Atlanta with American rap producer Tricky Stewart (Mya, Blu Cantrell, B2K).
Album closer “Cinco De Mayo”, meanwhile, was written in a Toronto basement studio with SNOW’s childhood friend and longtime collaborator Robbie Patterson. “We wrote it on May 5, a day when all the planets aligned,” Snow explains with a laugh. “We saw the stars, went downstairs and came up with that tune. It was my buddy Mikey’s birthday, and he’d just gotten married to a Mexican, so we really knew we had to call it “Cinco De Mayo”.”
Another jam “9 Yards”, is about Allenbury, the North York housing project where SNOW grew up. “That’s where my heart is. If I had to go back and live there again, no problem. I’d love to have my old house back, just as a little hidden place to go."
SNOW admits he owes his sound to those streets of his trouble youth. He was weaned on his mother’s cherished collection of classic R&B albums. He favoured KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Max Webster, Queen, and The Police, helping his older brother Sean stage air-band performances and singing for his first audiences in grade school. Then, when he was in his early teens, the largely Irish-Canadian area saw an influx of Jamaican residents, who brought reggae with them. Darrin O’Brien was hooked. “I used to get tapes from Jamaica that’d been dubbed like a hundred times, you could barely hear it. I’d, like, program my mind, almost like a game, playing and rewinding. I wasn’t trying to learn it to sing it. I just wanted to know what they were saying!” Soon the patois “just came out of me,” he says.
There were, of course, some now-famous diversions on his musical route. SNOW was continually in trouble with the law in his teens. There was the phony attempted murder rap for which he was acquitted and later chronicled in “Informer”. It was on a trip to New York City while on bail for an assault charge back home that SNOW was discovered by MC Shan. Shan was so impressed by the “white boy from Canada’s” freestyle skills he rushed him into a studio to make what would be the debut 12 INCHES OF SNOW. “I didn’t even think it was going to come out,” he says. “I thought it was just a joke.”
After shooting a video for “Informer”, he returned to Toronto for sentencing on the assault charge. He plead guilty and got a year. He didn’t hear the mixed version of his album. He first saw the “Informer” video in prison.
“I got out after eight months. I got into a limousine and I was gone. Paris, Rome, Germany.”
“Informer” held the #1 spot on the Billboard Singles Chart for seven weeks in 1993, entering up a Guinness Book Of World Records as the biggest selling reggae single and highest charting reggae single in history. “Informer” went on to sell 8 million units worldwide and 3.2 million units in the U.S.
A guy who remembers when he had “no dreams,” SNOW laughs his self-effacing laugh as he looks back on the twist of fate that made him a household name. He has long since ditched his criminal past, but held on to his roots. He still has the same girlfriend (16 years and counting), and is devoted to their seven-year-old daughter, Justuss.
And he remains proud of what he considers the product of multi-cultural Toronto: Jamaican dancehall and American R&B filtered through an Irish kid who jokes that his only excuse for not “going country” is that he’s yet to find a pair of cowboy boots he doesn’t hate.
Thanks to Samantha_rodrigues@hotmail.com for submitting the biography.
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Wanting Musice done | Reviewer: Danielle | 9/10/10
I am writing a television series and am in the process of designing a hot reel for the sale and would like some origional music done by Snow for it. Looking for a professional contact (not personal). Where can I go?
ur crazyy | Reviewer: katie | 11/29/09
snow has NOT passed away i dont know where ppl are getting this from.. however sadly his wife passed away a couply days ago and her funeral was today!! for all those true snow fans out there say a prayer for snow "darrin" and his daughter justus as they go through this rough time..:(
is darrin o brien still alive | Reviewer: vanessa | 8/14/09
i herd snow had past away is this true as ive lookt all over the net an its coming up with nothing i herd he got shot is this true cum on lets face it he can sing better than any black guy etc..etc wos it jew to jealousy why he got shot i dont have a clue i just want to knowif hes still alive
we need an information | Reviewer: gtrama | 6/17/07
we have known that Snow has passed away.
Is it true?
Please tell us.
2 italian fans
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