By Clayton Barrington Russell, BA Arabic and International Relations
On 20 February this year, the UK sadly lost one of its greatest cultural contributors of the 21st Century. Jamal Edwards MBE was perhaps the most influential pioneer in establishing the UK’s urban music and grime scene, creating SBTV as a platform to showcase up-and-coming artists such as Stormzy, Emeli Sandé and Ed Sheeran. Although he was not an artist himself, music fans across the world will miss Edward’s enthusiasm, energy and deep desire to transform people’s lives. His legacy remains rock-solid and embedded in British culture – a cornerstone of the ever-changing music industry.
Born in Luton, Edwards moved to London with his family as a child, where he gained a small following on YouTube by videoing and uploading his friend’s rapping. Starting up in 2006 with just a handycam, Jamal began to find local rappers in a bid to exhibit their talent and kick-start their career. As the channel gained a bigger following, this was transformed into SBTV, now an acclaimed platform used by new, promising musical talent, eager to make their breakthrough. Over the years, such gifted artists have included Stormzy, Dave, and Headie One, whilst other already well-established grime artists helped make their mark on the platform like the legendary Newham MC, D Double E. In the space of less than 10 years, Edwards had single-handedly revolutionised the ways in which opportunities can be given to young artists, often from underprivileged backgrounds. In 2016, SBTV expanded and gave some of the first UK interviews with big names in the American rap scene, such as Drake, Schoolboy Q, and Nicki Minaj. The channel will continue to support and give a stage for talented rappers and singers to prove themselves, cementing Jamal’s incredible legacy in British music history.
Tributes have been pouring in from across the industry, in memorial to a man who has given a future to so many. In a recent concert at London’s O2 Arena, rapper Dave paid tribute to Edwards, explaining to fans, ‘Jamal Edwards is the reason I’m standing in front of you guys here today.’ The sheer amount of people who have been touched by Jamal’s work is staggering. Outside of the UK’s grime scene, Edwards got involved with the likes of Ed Sheeran, who recently named him his ‘life brother’ in a touching Instagram post dedicated to his late close friend. Now one of the biggest artists in the entire world, Sheeran has previously stated that he, just like many others, owes his career to Mr Edwards.
Edwards’ passion to change the world led him to broaden his focus and become involved in other ventures outside the music industry. In 2017 he worked with The Guardian to create a documentary destigmatising the issue of male suicide in the UK, before later that year shedding light on the mental health problems of artists in the music industry, explaining that he ‘wanted to raise awareness.’ Along with this, Edwards had also become an accomplished author – publishing his own book in 2013 titled Self-Belief: The Vision: How to Be a Success on Your Own Terms.
The BBC reports that Edwards passed away at his mother’s house, with a close friend claiming he suffered a sudden heart attack. Tributes have poured in from across the world, including from HRH Prince of Wales, who awarded Edwards with an MBE in 2014 for services to music.
A luminary of British entrepreneurship and with a selfless dedication for manifesting others’ success, Jamal Edwards MBE will be dearly missed…
A luminary of British entrepreneurship and a selfless dedication for manifesting others’ success, Jamal Edwards MBE will be dearly missed, and fans of all genres of music are indebted to his work in some way or another.
Photo Caption: Jamal Edwards at Le Monde d’Hermès, 2019 (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)