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