Cultural Icons by Jason Lee
Naomi Campbell
The latest in news and gossip


The Cockney Translator
Smiley Culture is important in that he was among the first UK-based reggae artists to challenge the Jamaicans and succeed. The British public also took him to their hearts, while the lyrics of "Cockney Translation" have been used by teachers and lecturers to illustrate the effects and influence of immigration on the English language.

David Emmanuel is the son of a Jamaican father and South American mother, Smiley Culture gained his nickname at school, where his method of chatting up girls was simply to ask for a smile. He served his apprenticeship with a number of local sounds before hitting the big time with south London's Saxon sound system, the home of a formidable amount of British reggae talent, including Maxi Priest, Tippa Irie and Phillip Papa Levi.

His live reputation attracted the attention of record producers and his first recording for Fashion Records, "Cockney Translation", featuring Smiley slipping effortlessly from Jamaican patois to a south London accent, touched a nerve and sold an unprecedented 40,000 copies. His follow-up, "Police Officer", again featuring the cockney and "yardy" voices, did even better and reached the national Top 20 in early 1985. Appearances on BBC Television's Top Of The Pops followed - a first for a reggae DJ - and Smiley became a "star". A major recording contract with Polydor Records followed. As well as hosting his own Channel 4 television show, Club Mix, Smiley also found time for a cameo appearance in the movie Absolute Beginners, singing Miles Davis' "So What". He continued to record, including some interesting collaborations with American hip-hop artists, before setting up his own management company and working extensively in advertising.

The Original (Top Notch 1986), Tongue In Cheek (Polydor 1986).

Benjamin Zephaniar / Mica Paris / Courtney Pine / Jazzie B
Lenny Henry Naomi Campbell Paul Robeson Mary Seacole Courtney Pine culturalicons logo