YouTube star Jamal Edwards, best known for founding SBTV, a media platform that helped introduce grime and many other artists to an international audience, died Sunday morning. He was 31-years-old.
In 2014, at the age of 24, Edwards was awarded an MBE for his work in music. He was also a director, author, DJ, entrepreneur, and designer.
SBTV launched the careers of some of the world’s most successful musicians, such as Ed Sheeran, Dave, and Jessie J, before they were signed to major labels. Edward’s platform began as a YouTube channel.
While he was still at school, Edwards said he started SBTV “on a £20 phone” and grew his business into a premier online youth broadcaster.
Established in 2006, his YouTube channel now has over 1.2 million subscribers and nearly a billion total views.
Named after Edwards’ rap name SmokeyBarz, the channel featured early music from artists Stormzy, Rita Ora, Krept & Konan, Bugzy Malone, and others.
“I always looked on grime like the punk movement, in terms of lyrics and rebellious attitude,” Edwards told the Guardian in a 2017 interview.
Born in Luton in 1990, Edwards grew up in Acton, West London. He received a BTec diploma in media moving image from Ealing College. The young star worked at the retail chain Topman to support himself financially while developing SBTV.
Some of Edwards’ other interests included extensive philanthropic work in areas such as mental health. Edwards worked to break down mental health taboos about men. He spoke of his anxiety. He also funded youth centers. In 2021 the entrepreneur launched a project to refurbish and reopen youth centers.
People in the music, politics, sports, and every other industry, poured in tributes for Edwards on social media.
Rapper AJ Tracey posted: “RIP Jamal Edwards, west london legend status.” Lethal Bizzle called Edwards “one of the pioneers in UK music.” Musician Example wrote on Instagram: “Can’t believe you’re gone. 31 years old. Can’t find the words right now.”
Edwards was also an ambassador for the Prince of Wales’s charity, the Prince’s Trust.
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