Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Smiley Culture RIP

Shocking news of the death of Smiley Culture (real name David Emmanuel) in a police raid today. According to the Voice: 'The Police Office singer, real name David Emmanuel, is believed to have stabbed himself after officers raided his home in Warlingham, Surrey, earlier today. He was due to face trial after being charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine in September last year alongside four others. A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed they were now investigating a “death following police contact”. The 47-year-old, born and raised in south London, rose to fame as a DJ with the Saxon Studio sound system'.

He will always be remembered for his two great hits of 1984/5:

Police Officer

''Police Officer' described a street confrontation between Smiley and police who stopped and searched him. The song's chorus referred to the pattern of petty harrassment in which officers carrying out a stop would arrange for black drivers to have to produce their driving documents at a police station even if nothing appeared to be amiss with their vehicle'

Cockney Translation

'The implicit joke beneath the surface of the record was that though many of London's working class blacks were Cockney by birth and experience (technical Cockney) their 'race' denied them access to the social category established by the language which real (i.e. white) Cockneys spoke. 'Cockney Translation' transcended the 'schizophrenic' elements which composed the contradictory unity that provided the basic framework for a potential black Britishness. The record suggested that these elements could be reconciled without jeapordising affiliation to the history of the black diaspora... The record contains a veiled but none the less visible statement that the rising generation of blacks, gathering in the darkened dance-halls, were gradually finding a means to acknowledge their relationship to England and Englishness. They were beginning to discover a means to position themselves relative to this society and to create a sense of belonging which could transcend 'racial'/ethnic, local and class-based particularities and redefine England/Britain as a truly plural community. They were able to express their reluctant affiliation to it in the same breath as their ties to the African diaspora'
(quotes from Paul Gilroy, There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack, 1987)

'Cockney say Old Bill we say dutty babylon'

Updated 16 March, see also:

- Future Next Level: 'he was the grandfather British MC. He started a lineage that can be followed through the Hip House MCs of the late 80s and early 90s, through jungle MCs, UK Hip Hop and to acts today such as The Streets and the grime-gone-pop acts that dominate today’s charts. Indeed, without Smiley, the very idea that it might be possible to be successful with lyrics about the black urban experience may never have been planted. Today the pop charts are littered with these voices'.

- Lee Jasper asks critical questions about his mysterious death.

- Dotun Adebayo in the The Guardian: If Smiley hadn't made it cool for black Brits to chat "British" on record UK rappers would probably still be chatting "yankee" and there would have been no UK vocal flava to drum and bass, two step, dub step or grime. There would be no Dizzie or Tinie Tempah'.

- John Eden at Uncarved.

- Transpontine on his South London roots.

1 comment:

boomnoise said...

Nice tribute. Very apt Gilroy quoting. I've written up a bit about Smiley on www.futurenextlevel.com.