Tributes to SBTV visionary Jamal Edwards from Dave, AJ Tracey, MOBO, YouTube, 1Xtra, Sadiq Khan and more

Tributes to SBTV visionary Jamal Edwards from Dave, AJ Tracey, MOBO, YouTube, 1Xtra, Sadiq Khan and more

Tributes have been paid to online music pioneer and UK rap champion Jamal Edwards, who has died aged just 31. 

As the founder of SBTV, Jamal Edwards played a huge role in the rise of UK rap stars including Dave, Stormzy, Headie One, JME, J Hus, Lady Leshurr, Nines, Krept & Konan and Skepta, as well as artists outside of the genre including Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sande and Jessie J. 

Edwards had attended the BRIT Awards earlier this month and it is reported that he played a DJ set in London on Saturday night. He passed away on Sunday morning. No further details have been given.

“It is with the deepest heartache that I confirm that my beautiful son Jamal Edwards passed away yesterday morning after a sudden illness,” wrote his mother, Brenda Edwards, a singer and TV presenter who appears on ITV’s Loose Women. “Myself, his sister Tanisha and the rest of his family and friends are completely devastated. He was the centre of our world.”

“Jamal was an inspiration to myself and so many,” she added. “Our love for him lives on, his legacy lives on. Long live Jamal Edwards MBE, MBA, PhD.”

Luton-born Edwards was still at school when he launched SBTV, aged just 15. The pioneering online entrepreneur was awarded an MBE aged 23 for services to music in 2014. He also became an ambassador for the Prince's Trust, helped to raise awareness for mental health and funded youth centres via the JE Delve initiative.

Self Belief: The Vision: How to Be A Success On Your Own Terms, combining memoir and business acumen, was published in 2013.

Jamal Edwards was a familiar figure across the music industry, thanks to his long-term support for artists. SBTV launched at a time when rising rap stars were often unable to perform live due to the Met Police’s form 696 risk assessment system.

Frustrated at the lack of exposure for UK rap, he launched SBTV in late 2006 and uploaded the first video to YouTube on a £20 phone. Based in Acton, West London, he filmed performances, continued to post them on YouTube and built a growing audience. SBTV was named after his own rap moniker, SmokeyBarz.

The platform went on to become a game-changer for the scene. The SBTV YouTube channel now has 1.2m subscribers. Its biggest hits include the Yxng Bane remix of Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You (21m views), Nines’ Can’t Blame Me (21m) and J Hus feat. DoccyDocs with Lean & Bop (15m).

Jamal Edwards appeared on the cover of Music Week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of SBTV in 2017.

Driven by the viral F64 series - where MCs were filmed spitting an original 64-bar rhyme - and its spin-off A64, Edwards and SBTV helped break a raft of artists from Sheeran and Emeli Sandé, to Wiley, JME, Skepta, J Hus and Dave.

Edwards was the face of young entrepreneurship, and he also created and starred in a Google Chrome ad, appearing on magazine covers including Time and Wired. He briefly worked with Sony Music on a Just Jam label project.

“Back in the day there weren’t as many platforms as there are now, so people are getting their shots on other platforms, but we still have the power,” Edwards told Music Week in 2017 for his cover feature. "We’ve done Dave, J Hus, Nadia Rose and Mist recently. I always class it as symbiotic, they’ve got the talent, we’ve got the platform. Our audience is a bit different, varied, so that’s why we can still help artists, even if they’ve been on other platforms."

A&R is the most important thing,” he added. “The other part of it is helping to build creative teams. When Ed Sheeran did his first videos with us he used to joke because we were the platform where it was predominantly grime and rap, and when I put him on there he blew up.

“Nowadays, there are other platforms and artists are using their channels as platforms, like Stormzy and Lady Leshurr. That’s how the game has changed. It inspires me to think, ‘What else can I do, how can I help?'"

When Jamal Edwards appeared on the cover of Music Week, execs including ParrisO’Loughlin-Hoste, DJ Semtex and Zeon Richards spoke about his incredible abilities as a young music executive.

“Jamal Edwards is a pioneer and entrepreneur, but first and foremost he is a fan of good music, which is the core strength of the brand he has built,” DJ Semtex, director, artist development, Sony Music UK told us in 2017. “SBTV has always embraced creative individuality and taken chances with artists that other channels wouldn’t.”

Edwards maintained friendships with the artists whose careers he helped to launch, including Ed Sheeran, who filmed an acoustic A64 session in February 2010. He recently urged Ed Sheeran to collaborate with Nigerian artist Fireboy DML, an artist discovered by Edwards. The single Peru has since gone on to become a huge hit, peaking at No.2. 

Tributes to Jamal Edwards are flooding in from artists and other figures paying respects to his ambition and achievements. Music Week has rounded up some of the social media tributes below.


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