Smiley Culture

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Smiley Culture
Mid-1980s publicity photo
David Victor Emmanuel

(1963-02-10)10 February 1963 [1]
South London, England
Died15 March 2011(2011-03-15) (aged 48)
Warlingham, Surrey, England
Cause of deathSuicide by stabbing
OccupationSinger, deejay, television presenter
Musical career
Genres Reggae, dancehall
Years activeLate 1970s–early 1990s
Labels Fashion, Polydor

David Victor Emmanuel (10 February 1963 – 15 March 2011), [1] better known as Smiley Culture, was a British reggae singer and DJ known for his "fast chat" style. During a relatively brief period of fame and success, he produced two of the most critically acclaimed reggae singles of the 1980s. [2] He died on 15 March 2011, aged 48, during a police raid on his home. An inquest found that his death was a suicide. [3]

Reggae Music genre from Jamaica

Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora. A 1968 single by Toots and the Maytals, "Do the Reggay" was the first popular song to use the word "reggae", effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that was strongly influenced by traditional mento as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues, especially the New Orleans R&B practiced by Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint, and evolved out of the earlier genres ska and rocksteady. Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and political comment. Reggae spread into a commercialized jazz field, being known first as "Rudie Blues", then "Ska", later "Blue Beat", and "Rock Steady". It is instantly recognizable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat, and the offbeat rhythm section. The immediate origins of reggae were in ska and rocksteady; from the latter, reggae took over the use of the bass as a percussion instrument.

In Jamaican music, a deejay (DJ) is a reggae or dancehall musician who sings and "toasts" to an instrumental riddim.

Single (music) Type of music release usually containing one or two tracks

In the music industry, a single is a type of release, typically a song recording of fewer tracks than an LP record or an album. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, a single is a song that is released separately from an album, although it usually also appears on an album. Typically, these are the songs from albums that are released separately for promotional uses such as digital download or commercial radio airplay and are expected to be the most popular. In other cases a recording released as a single may not appear on an album.



Emmanuel was raised in Stockwell, south London, the son of a Jamaican father and Guyanese mother. [1] [4] He was educated at Tulse Hill School. [5] His "Smiley" nickname was gained due to his method of chatting up girls at school – he would ask them for a smile. [4] Prior to his recording career he worked as a DJ with many of London's reggae sound systems, most often with the Saxon Studio International system, where he met and worked with a number of other reggae artists, including Maxi Priest, Papa Levi and Tippa Irie. [4] [6]

Guyana Country in South America

Guyana, officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America. It is the only English speaking country in South America, and is culturally considered part of the Anglophone-Caribbean sphere. In addition it is one of the founding member countries of the Caribbean Community organization, (CARICOM). Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. With an area of 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state on mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname.

Tulse Hill School School in London, Lambeth, England

Tulse Hill School was a large comprehensive school for boys in Upper Tulse Hill, in the London Borough of Lambeth in south London, England. The school spanned eight floors and had almost two thousand pupils. It opened in 1956 and closed in 1990. Notable alumni included Ken Livingstone, ex London Mayor.

In Jamaican popular culture, a sound system is a group of disc jockeys, engineers and MCs playing ska, rocksteady or reggae music. The sound system is an important part of Jamaican culture and history.

Signed to the London-based reggae record 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". The song mixed cockney dialect with London's version of Jamaican patois, translating between the two. [7] [8] 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. [4] Smiley Culture popularised the "fast chat" style of deejaying that had originated with Jamaican deejays such as Ranking Joe, and was developed further by British toasters, particularly those on the Saxon sound system such as Peter King. [9]

Fashion Records is a UK-based record label, publishing reggae music.

<i>Minder</i> (TV series) Television series

Minder is a British comedy-drama about the London criminal underworld. Initially produced by Verity Lambert, it was made by Euston Films, a subsidiary of Thames Television and shown on ITV. The original show ran for ten series between 29 October 1979 and 10 March 1994. The series was notable for using a range of leading British actors, as well as many up-and-coming performers before they found their greatest success; at its peak it was one of ITV's most watched shows.

Del Boy Fictional character

Derek Edward Trotter, more commonly known as Del Boy, is the fictional lead character in the popular BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses and one of the main characters of its prequel, Rock & Chips. He was played by David Jason in the original series and was portrayed as a teenager by James Buckley in the prequel. Del Boy is often regarded as one of the greatest comedy characters in the history of British television, and is regarded as an iconic character in British culture. In a 2001 poll conducted by Channel 4 Del Boy was ranked fourth on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Characters.

Emmanuel had chart success with his next single, "Police Officer", released towards the end of 1984. This was the supposedly autobiographical tale of how Emmanuel was arrested for the possession of cannabis, but then let off in return for an autograph when the policeman recognised him as a famous reggae artist. [10] In spite of the subject matter – and possibly because mid-1980s radio station bosses in the UK did not understand the terms "ganja" and "sinsemilla" – the single was a Top 20 hit, selling 160,000 copies, and earned Emmanuel two appearances on BBC's flagship music programme, Top of the Pops . [1] [4] 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. [11] He recorded a session for Janice Long's BBC Radio 1 show in December 1984, [12] and was featured on the covers of Echoes, Record Mirror , and the NME in early 1985. The success of "Police Officer" prompted a re-release of "Cockney Translation". It picked up considerable airplay on BBC Radio One and sold over 40,000 copies in total, but only reached the lower end of the UK Singles Chart. [4] His success led to an appearance at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Jamaica in 1985. [13]

<i>Top of the Pops</i> British music chart television series

Top of the Pops, also known as TOTP, is a British music chart television programme, made by the BBC and originally broadcast weekly between 1 January 1964 and 30 July 2006. The world's longest running weekly music show, TOTP was shown every Thursday evening on BBC One, except for a short period on Fridays in mid-1973, and again in autumn 1974, before once again being moved to Fridays at 7:30 pm in 1996 and then to Sundays on BBC Two in 2005. Each weekly show consisted of performances from some of that week's best-selling popular music records, usually excluding any tracks moving down the chart, including a rundown of that week's singles chart. This was originally the Top 20, changing to the Top 30 during the 1970s and the Top 40 in the 80s. The distinctive TOTP theme tune – a riff of Led Zeppelins "Whole Lotta Love" – first appeared in 1972 as the background music to the chart countdown.

Janice Long is an English radio broadcaster best known for her work with BBC Radio. During her career she has presented shows on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and currently BBC Radio Wales. On Radio 2 she had presented a weekday night time show from 2000 to 2017, which aired at midnight. Long was presented with a BASCA Gold Badge award on 3 October 2016 for her unique contribution to music.

BBC Radio 1 British national radio station

BBC Radio 1 is one of the BBC's two flagship radio stations, specialising in modern popular music and current chart hits throughout the day. Radio 1 provides alternative genres after 7 pm, including electronica, dance, hip hop and indie. The choice of music and presenting style is entirely that of programme hosts, however those who present in the daytime have to rotate a number of songs a specific number of times per week. It was launched in 1967 to meet the demand for music generated by pirate radio stations, when the average age of the UK population was 27. The BBC claim that they target the 15–29 age group, and the average age of its UK audience since 2009 is 30. BBC Radio 1 started 24-hour broadcasting on 1 May 1991.

After this he signed to major label Polydor, but his work for them – including the album Tongue in Cheek, and the accompanying single "Schooltime Chronicle" – did not replicate the chart success of "Police Officer". He also hosted the Channel 4 television show Club Mix in 1986 and 1987. [4]

Polydor Records multinational record label headquartered in the United Kingdom, owned by Universal Music Group

Polydor Records Ltd. is a British record label and company that operates as part of Universal Music Group. It has a close relationship with Universal's Interscope Geffen A&M Records label, which distributes Polydor's releases in the United States. In turn, Polydor distributes Interscope releases in the United Kingdom. Polydor Records Ltd. was established in London in 1954 as a British subsidiary of German company Deutsche Grammophon GmbH. It was renamed Polydor Ltd. in 1972.

Channel 4 British free-to-air television channel

Channel 4 is a British public-service free-to-air television network headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It began transmission on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which was established in 1990 and came into operation in 1993. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter group in Wales to digital terrestrial broadcasting on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide television channel for the first time.

In 1986, Emmanuel made a cameo appearance in the film Absolute Beginners . [4] He also featured in a television advertising campaign for online accounts by NatWest in 1986. [14]

<i>Absolute Beginners</i> (film) 1986 British rock musical film directed by Julien Temple

Absolute Beginners is a 1986 British musical film adapted from Colin MacInnes' book of the same name about life in late 1950s London. Directed by Julien Temple, the film stars Eddie O' Connell, Patsy Kensit, James Fox, Edward Tudor-Pole, Anita Morris and David Bowie, with featured appearances by Sade Adu, Ray Davies, and Steven Berkoff. The film was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.

Culture has been identified as a major influence by later black British musicians such as DJ Luck and MC Neat, and Roots Manuva, the latter describing him as a "Britrap pioneer". [15] [16] "Cockney Translation" was one of the choices of novelist and poet Michael Rosen when he appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs .

In 2010, Emmanuel told The Guardian that after his career in music he began investing in diamond mining, and by 2010 had gold and diamond mine concessions in several countries including Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, Kenya, and the Congo. [17]


After being arrested in July 2010, he was charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine, and on 28 September he appeared at Croydon Magistrates' Court in London. [18] His trial was due to begin on 21 March 2011. [19]


On 15 March 2011, Emmanuel died, reportedly from a self-inflicted stab wound, [20] while the police were searching his house on Hillbury Road, [21] Warlingham, Surrey. His death came an hour and a half after officers arrived with a search warrant [22] [23] [24] relating to the import of Class A drugs into the UK. [3] A post-mortem examination revealed that he had died from a single stab wound to the heart. [24] He is survived by his mother, son, daughter, sister and three brothers. [1]

His death was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In their final report – which at the request of the coroner [25] [26] was neither made public nor made available to Emmanuel's family – the IPCC concluded that there was no evidence justifying the pressing of criminal charges against any of the four officers present at the house during the raid. In the IPCC statement following the inquest – which returned a verdict of suicide – it was stated that there was neither criminal conduct by officers, nor individual failings by officers that might amount to misconduct. [27] Nonetheless, the report also pointed out flaws in the police raid and called on the Metropolitan Police Service to improve the planning and execution of their drug seizures.

However, Smiley's family raised concerns about the investigation, claiming that the IPCC "had let [them] down" and that many "unanswered questions" remained. [28] The conditions surrounding his death and the subsequent investigation were also questioned by members of the general public, his death often being considered in the context of police brutality and other black people dying in police custody. [29] [30] A study into the causes and consequences of the 2011 United Kingdom riots, led by the London School of Economics in collaboration with the British newspaper The Guardian , identified Emmanuel's death, perceived by some as a prominent case of police abuse, as a contributing factor to the riots. [31]



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