’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Informer”
The sixty-seventh No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Informer” by Snow, a Caucasian Canadian Hip-Hop artist influenced by Reggae, or Reggae artist influenced by Hip-Hop. This track was Snow’s debut, off his suggestively titled album 12 Inches of Snow. He is often incorrectly called a One Hit Wonder, but “Informer” was followed by the Top 20 hit “Girl, I’ve Been Hurt.” He hasn’t charted in the U.S. since then, but he had more hits in his native Canada, the biggest being 2000’s “Everybody Wants To Be Like You,” which peaked at No. 2, besting the No. 9 peak of “Informer.”
“Informer” was the talk of the town in 1993 because nobody could decipher the lyrics, due to the rapid-fire delivery, reggae intonation and heavy use of slang. A version of the video with the lyrics at the bottom — and a bouncing ball, as we recall — was released by popular demand. This was, of course, before you could look up lyrics on the Internet, and long before people routinely posted lyric videos on YouTube. Even with the lyrics in your face, though, it’s a hard story to follow. As far as we can tell, the song is about Snow stabbing somebody, then assaulting a witness who’d gone to the authorities. In that way, it’s very similar to the song it displaced at No. 1, “A Whole New World.”
Let’s revisit “Informer”:
This song is creative, masterfully produced, thoughtfully written, expertly delivered and exceedingly catchy. It also is under-appreciated for blurring the lines between singing and rapping several years before Nelly popularized this vocal technique.
Hip-Hop is a genre invented by black men who wanted to express serious truths about their struggles, but its crossover popularity was driven by white men, children and “nonthreatening” black men expressing un-serious truths about happiness, hopping to and fro and Christina Applegate . Though “Informer” may seem light and silly 23 years later, it was nudging the public closer to Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Jay-Z and Nas, insofar as it was at least about a serious matter. So at the time, “Informer” was dope because it was somewhat edgy in its content, and the public had fun trying to understand the lyrics. Its appeal spanned generations and cultures.
Does it hold up? Our unscientific poll of 20-somethings revealed that nobody knew this song by title or artist, but they recognized it when they listened to it, especially the hook, “a lick he bum bum down.” They also all said they hadn’t heard it in ages. So we’ll go with a cautious “no” on this one. But, nevertheless, we a-still me daddy me snow me a-gon’ like it, or something.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?