I have no idea if I am the first person to comment on this or not, but Dizzee’s new album (almost) shares a title with an ancestor of his – Smiley Culture, one of the most commercially successful UK MCs of the eighties.
Shall I bore you with the parallels and divergences? Yes, I think I shall.
Smiley sprang to fame on Saxon soundsystem alongside Papa Levi, Asher Senator, Tippa Irie et al. Levi was the first to sign to a major, but Smiley’s anthemic “Cockney Translation” and “Police Officer” had significant chart success on proper London reggae label Fashion. He was snapped up by Polydor and released the above album in 1986 featuring unconvincing “pop” versions of some of his tunes alongside new material, did the rounds and then vanished. Last thing I heard he was running a PR agency or something. (If you are reading this Smiley – get in touch. Your story needs to be told properly!)
Dizzee on the other hand sprang to fame as part of grime crew Roll Deep, alongside Wiley, Flowdan, Trim et al. His first solo release “I Luv You” was I think out on a self released white label before he was signed to XL. He went on to win The Mercury Award in 2003 for his debut album “Boy In Da Corner” (which still sounds great today). Dizzee then set up his own label, Dirtee Stank and had some passable pop hits.
What does this tell us? Perhaps that during the last 23 years the music industry has found better ways of sustaining MC acts commercially? Or maybe that grime’s business model and materialism was more robust than the uncompromising world of reggae soundsystem in the eighties?