Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Obituary: Smiley Culture dies in police raid

Sky News are reporting the death of Smiley Culture. The report says police are calling his death - during a drugs raid - as being down to "self-inflicted injuries".

UPDATE: It's a bit grim now to think that Smiley Culture owed his success to a song which saw him being let off a potential possession charge thanks to his toasting prowess:

Sure, it was a borderline novelty hit, but in 1984 there weren't many British MCs, and none were having chart hits. At the time, it seemed unlikely that a British policeman would have been intimate with Culture's track Cockney Translator - even though "in the reggae charts number one was it's number"; subsequent discovery of just the sort of background snooping the police were doing at the time makes it more plausible.

He never quite achieved the same level of success again, despite cutting a deal with Polydor. Follow-up hit Schooltime Chronicle was a Grange Hill to Police Officer's Bill; the album Tongue In Cheek has vanished from print.

Born David Emmanuel, Smiley took his first reggae steps as a member of the Saxon Studio Sound System djs. Saxon was like the RADA of fast-talk reggae - alongside Culture, the studios gave first steps to Tippa Irie, Papa Levi, Daddy Sandy and Daddy Colonel. Maxi Priest also graduated from the collective.

After his mid-80s peak, Smiley took a small role in cappuccino-car-crash flick Absolute Beginners. He then faded from public life before a sad return in the July of 2010 when he was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine.

Somewhat bizarrely, The Guardian then met up with him in September for an article on post-pop careers. Emmanuel revealed he was running diamond mines:

I first became aware of the possibilities for mining after visiting Grenada, where my mother comes from. Cockney Translation had endeared me to a lot of serious businessmen in the East End of London, and because of the records, I'd met a lot of influential people who helped me get investment. At school I thought diamonds came from vaults: now I've got gold and diamond mine concessions in Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, Kenya and the Congo, and I'm promoting a record for the Azerbaijan government. Recently, I bought an expensive car in cash, which resulted in a visit by the police. It was like Police Officer all over again.
That all sounds a little odd now - promoting records for the Azerbaijan government? If ever a newspaper piece had you yelling 'what? what do you mean?', it was this.

The details of his death today are sketchy - the "Independent" Police Complaints Commission are investigating. The Metropolitan Police have issued a statement:
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "As part of an ongoing operation officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's Serious and Organised Crime Command today attended a residential address in east Surrey to make an arrest.

"While they were at the address, an incident occurred during which a 48-year-old man died. Officers from Surrey Police attended the incident and it has been formally referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission."