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Musician Smiley Culture dies during police raid on Surrey home

March 16, 2011 Musician Smiley Culture dies during police raid on Surrey home


After reminiscing only the other week about the first 7″ I ever bought, Smiley Culture died mysteriously in a Police Raid on his Surrey home yesterday.

David Victor Emmanuel (1962 – 15 March 2011), better known as Smiley Culture, was an English reggae singer and deejay known for his ‘fast chat’ style. He produced two of the most critically acclaimed reggae singles of the 1980s. Born in 1962 and raised in Stockwell, South London, was the son of a Jamaican father and Grenadian mother. He was educated at Tulse Hill School. His ‘Smiley’ nickname was gained due to his method of chatting up girls at school – he would ask them for a smile. He died on 15 March 2011, aged 48.

Signed to the London based reggae label, Fashion Records, his first single “Cockney Translation” (1984) was a Jamaican’s guide to the East End dialect– “Cockneys have names like Terry, Arfur and Del Boy/We have names like Winston, Lloyd and Leroy.” Simon Reynolds has often cited this song in his writings, arguing that it presaged the creation of a new hybrid accent in which white East Londoners would adopt many terms of black origin. The song’s lyric was later used in schools as an example of how immigration has affected the English language.

Emmanuel had chart success with his next single, “Police Officer”, released in 1984. This was the supposedly autobiographical tale of how he was arrested for the possession of cannabis, but then let off when the police officer recognised him as a famous reggae artist. In spite of the subject matter – and possibly because mid 1980s radio station bosses in the UK did not understand the terms “ganja” and “sensimilla” – the single was a Top 20 hit and earned Emmanuel two appearances on Top of the Pops. The record, although humorous, did have a serious aspect, in that it highlighted the way black people believe they are unfairly treated by the police.

Smiley Culture has been identified as a major influenceby later black British musicians such as DJ Luck and MC Neat, and Roots Manuva, the latter describing him as a “Britrap pioneer”.

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