British music entrepreneur and YouTube pioneer, Jamal Edwards has passed away suddenly at just 31 years old. Find out how he had such a huge impact on UK grime and music.
Luton-born Jamal Edwards was responsible for launching the careers of countless heavy hitters in the UK grime scene. Such artists include Stormzy, Krept & Konan, Lady Leshurr, and AJ Tracey, to name but a few. Edwards founded SBTV “on a £20 phone” when he was still in school, which then became his popular YouTube channel in 2006. The channel now has over 1.22m subscribers, and features coverage of emerging artists, as well as popular names from the UK urban music scene.
Edwards’ channel was born out of frustration. Speaking to BBC Radio 1 Xtra in 2017, he said: “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.”
SBTV, which is named after Edwards’ rap name, SmokeyBarz, started off by sharing footage of freestyles, rap battles, and its trademark feature, F64. Meaning “fresh 64”, the feature saw established and up-and-coming artists exclusively sharing 64 bars of new original lyrics.
After finding success in 2011, thanks to being featured in a Google Chrome ad, Jamal Edwards got involved in philanthropic work, funding youth centres as well as promoting mental health awareness. He became an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, and also set up his own project in 2021, which focussed on refurbishing and reopening youth centres.
In 2014, Edwards received an MBE for his work in music. Alongside founding SBTV, he was also a rapper, DJ, designer, author, and entrepreneur.
It is thought that Edwards attended the 2022 BRIT Awards ceremony, and supposedly performed a DJ set at a London club on Saturday night.
The sudden loss of such an influential yet young figure has been felt keenly by the artists who knew Jamal Edwards. Tributes on social media have poured in. George the Poet shared on Twitter, “RIP Jamal Edwards. Giving God thanks that you did what he sent you to do ❤️ So many of us owe our careers to you bro. Thank you for everything.” Whilst the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said that the “British music and entertainment has lost one of its brightest stars.”