Ian Burrell: The rapper turned entrepreneur who has the eyes and ears of the young
Media Studies: Edwards' mother gave him a simple videocamera – which shaped his career
The future shape of media in Britain is a rangy black kid in Puma Hi Tops and a Ducati motorcycle jacket. Don't take my word for that, speak to Richard Branson – or to Chad Hurley, founder of YouTube.
Last week Hurley sent a personal video offering congratulations to Jamal Edwards, a 21-year-old Londoner, who has just registered a staggering 100 million views on his YouTube-hosted online television channel, SBTV, which he set up as a 15-year-old schoolboy rapper. Branson, who has become a mentor to Edwards, sent him a message applauding his "absolutely incredible" achievement.
Edwards has something that every media owner craves – the eyes and ears of a mass audience of young people both in Britain and in his second market of the United States. Political leaders know that – David Cameron and Ed Miliband have both given him interviews in bids to reach out to the kids. And so do global entertainment stars such as Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre, who recently took Edwards with them on their Asian tour.
Edwards has big ambitions. He wants to expand beyond music-based video into the realms of fashion and comedy. He is about to make a trip across the Atlantic in search of "an American Jamal Edwards" who can grow the SBTV audience in the US.
Yet when he meets to discuss this significant moment in the development of a British online success story, Edwards wishes to rendezvous in a desolate subway close to a roundabout on London's North Circular Road.
This is a decision based on protecting the reputation of his brand. He has recently extended SBTV to include more mainstream music artists such as Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. He thought about marking the 100 million hits milestone by making a film with Adele but chose instead to acknowledge his underground roots and make a video with grime's Boy Better Know crew. "I started off with these guys."
So he turns up carrying an old Bush beatbox and a Canon 550 video camera. It was his mother's decision, six years ago, to give her teenage son a simple hand-held Panasonic that shaped his career. He began filming foxes and then made some raw rap videos for his friends and posted them online. As they attracted interest he coined the name SBTV, after his own rapping moniker "Smokey Barz". Today he uses the initials to amplify the brand, and market an SBTV clothing range to his audience. "Street Beasts, Sexy Boys, So Beautiful... SB is a way of life", he says.
As we wait for BBK to arrive, Edwards describes his distinctive rolling filming style that helps to characterise SBTV's "F64" videos. He has a second cameraman, Amo Jones, who mentions from beneath his baseball cap that he has recently made animation show reels for PriceWaterhouseCoopers and MI6 ("it's all silhouettes"), among other clients.
When Chad Hurley last came to London, Edwards took him for a chicken dinner at Nando's, the restaurant chain of choice for British urban music stars. As he discusses his future plans, standing in the subway, he ends each point with a shuffling dance move, as if imitating one of the Nicholas brothers.
Yet there is a maturity to his vision. "I have had 100 million views from music and I now want to do that in sport, fashion and comedy," he says, stressing the need for "consistency" in the production values of the films he broadcasts. His model is the BBC iPlayer. But he knows that his youth is also a major asset. "I'm 21 and I know what I want to watch," he says, describing his attendance at a Google event where he was surrounded by advertising executives in search of his secrets. Edwards has a checklist of qualities that ensure his videos are widely "shared" on social media by SBTV's audience. He has opened an SBTV office and has hired four staff, including presenter, Georgia Lewis Anderson.
"Are you Jamal?" ask a pair of schoolboys, walking through the subway. Edwards poses for a phone picture. His status on Twitter is such that his account has – like those of Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian – been "verified", which is kudos indeed in the circles he moves in.
After his initial successes, Edwards was briefly employed by the BBC but says he prefers going it alone and taking chances. He risked his street reputation by filming the pop singer Pixie Lott and finding a new audience. "If I was selling out I wouldn't be standing here waiting for some grime MCs to turn up," he points out when, after an hour and a half, Boy Better Know have still to arrive.
Even this new media entrepreneur is not immune to technical hitches and a hard drive failure cost him almost all of his footage from the Dr Dre tour. But his confidence is undiminished. At each major success, from appearing in an advert for Google's Chrome search engine to being endorsed by Branson, Edwards's friends have told him he has "made it". But he sees his potential audience as being unlimited. "I just say keep on going – regardless of how far you get there are always going to be new people to lock in."
MPs hang fire as Leveson waits for the Murdochs
The Culture, Media & Sport Committee has a dilemma in publishing its much-anticipated latest report into phone hacking at News International.
The report will also be highly critical of James Murdoch, who stepped down last week as chairman of BSkyB. Further, it will say that the evidence given by former Wapping lawyer Tom Crone and ex-editor of the News of the World, Colin Myler doesn't square with the facts.
But neither Crone nor Myler have been arrested in the hacking investigation and they are not seen by the committee as the chief culprits in the story.
The problem for MPs is that they will not want to put all the blame on that pair but must be wary of prejudicing future criminal proceedings against individuals who have been charged, particularly after furious claims that police chief Sue Akers had done just that in her very general evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry.
The committee report is likely to be finalised on 24 April but unlikely to be published before Rupert and James Murdoch appear at Leveson, four days later.
Hoberman's Olympic goal: charm the foreign investors
Brent Hoberman, the effortlessly smooth Old Etonian and former founder of lastminute.com, has been given the job of entertaining some of the world's biggest investors when they come to London for the Olympics, and persuading them to spend their money in Britain.
Hoberman, right, will be helped in his task by having the sumptuous Lancaster House to entertain his guests, who will be whisked off to explore the capital's growing East London digital media village, dubbed Tech City. Hoberman launched furnishings site mydeco. com and is an angel investor in several start ups. "He has this quality of entrepreneurial statesmanship and is a terrific communicator," says Tech City's CEO Eric Van Der Kleij. Hoberman's fellow co-founder of lastminute, Martha Lane Fox, is the Government's digital tsar and as part of Race Online 2012 hopes to have the entire population using the internet by this year. She still has about 8 million people to go.
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- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
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