The founder of SBTV, British entrepreneur and YouTube star Jamal Edwards has died at the age of 31.
Jamal Edwards set up SBTV, an online urban music platform which helped launch the careers of artists like Dave, Ed Sheeran and Skepta.
Chart-topper AJ Tracey was one of the first to pay tribute online, tweeting “RIP Jamal Edwards, west London legend status”.
Edwards, born in Luton, was appointed an MBE for services to music in 2014.
A pioneering figure in British rap and grime music, he also became an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, a youth charity run by the Prince of Wales which helps young people set up their own companies.
He attended the Brit Awards earlier this month and was understood to have performed as a DJ at a gig in north London on Saturday night. No details have been released about his death, other than it happened on Sunday morning.
It’s impossible to overstate how important Jamal Edwards was to British rap.
His YouTube channel, which was started “on a £20 phone” while he was still at school, has given early exposure to almost every key player in the game. Stormzy, Skepta, JME, J Hus, Lady Leshurr, Dave, AJ Tracey, Krept & Konan, Headie One… the list is endless.
To an extent, SBTV was formed out of frustration. “Everyone in my area was an MC and I remember thinking, ‘Why can’t I find these online? I’m going to film people in my area and upload it to Youtube’.” Edwards told BBC Radio 1Xtra in 2017. “And from there it just started building and growing.”
SB TV arrived at a crucial time, showing that grime could thrive online, while police were attempting to shut down gigs with the controversial risk-assessment form 696.
The channel’s success meant Edwards became known as an entrepreneur and businessman – but he was a reluctant frontman. “I wanted to be the Banksy” he said. “I wanted no-one to know who I was.”
That changed in 2011, when he was featured in an advert for Google Chrome. His name was searched more than a million times. and people started approaching him for selfies.
But he put his notoriety to good use – raising awareness of mental health, funding youth centres and encouraging other young entrepreneurs.
Music remained his true passion, though, and he never stopped supporting the artists he loved. As recently as December, he encouraged Ed Sheeran to record a new verse for a song he’d discovered by Nigerian artist Fireboy DML. That track, Peru, climbed to number two in the UK charts, giving the African star his first international hit.
Edwards took no credit – he never did – but hundreds of artists have similar stories. His loss will be felt throughout the UK music scene.