Smiley Culture 1962-2011

UK Reggae and rap pioneer David David Emmanuel aka Smiley Culture died at his home in Surrey following a police raid on 15 March 2011.

Born David Emmanuel in 1962, he attended Tulse Hill School in south London, gaining the nickname “Smiley” there.

On leaving school, Smiley joined the major reggae soundsystem Saxon, where he developed the “fast chat” style of talking over records and worked with artists such as Maxi Priest, Papa Levi and Tippa Irie. A pioneer of fusing the urban English and Jamaican cultures to create something new, Culture signed with reggae label Fashion Records where he released the song Cockney Translation in 1984. The record was a humorous song translating the English cockney dialect for Jamaicans and included lyrics such as: ‘Cockneys have names like Terry, Arfur and Del Boy/We have names like Winston, Lloyd and Leroy.’

Emmanuel’s next record – Police Officer became a big hit. Released at the end of 1984 it reached number 12 in the UK charts and continued the theme of the meeting of Jamaican and English cultures as well as being a supposedly autobiographical story about Culture being arrested for marijuana possession. The hit resulted in the rapper making two memorable appearances on Top of the Pops.

Culture was then signed to Polydor Records, releasing the album Tongue in Cheek in 1986, going on to present the Channel 4 television show Club Mix and make a cameo appearance in the 1986 film Absolute Beginners, performing a version of Miles Davis’s So What? which appeared on the movie’s soundtrack.

David Emmanuel’s death is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.