Jamal Edwards death: SBTV founder and music entrepreneur dies aged 31

Edwards’ platform SBTV offered exposure to hit British artists before they signed major record deals

Nadine White
Sunday 20 February 2022 22:47
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Related video: Jamal Edwards travels to Kibera

Jamal Edwards, the British entrepreneur who founded the pioneering online music platform SBTV, has died at the age of 31.

Edwards gained fame as the chief executive of SBTV, which helped to launch the careers of chart-topping artists including Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Jessie J.

At the age of 15, he launched his platform recording his friends performing on the estate where he lived in Acton, west London, before catapulting to success. He was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to music.

Edwards’ manager confirmed that he had died on Sunday morning (20 February). No cause of death has been disclosed.

His death prompted tributes from figures from the entertainment industry and beyond, with many expressing their condolences to his mother, the Loose Women panellist Brenda Edwards, who finished fourth in the second series of The X Factor in 2005.

Che Wolton Grant, better known by his stage name AJ Tracey, paid tribute on Sunday evening.

Taking to Twitter, the rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer from Ladbroke Grove, west London, said: “RIP Jamal Edwards, West London legend status.”

Jamal Edwards during a live session at the launch of the Prince's Trust Summer Sessions at the Princes's Trust in Historic Chatham Dockyard in 2013

Awards organisation Mobo said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of Jamal Edwards passing. As the founder of @SBTVonline, his groundbreaking work and legacy in British music and culture will live on.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with his friends and family.”

Bafta-winning actor writer, director, and producer Adam Deacon, known for his leading role in Kidulthood, said he was “heartbroken” about Edwards’ death.

“Today I was on set when I found out the tragic news that my good friend Jamal Edwards had passed away and I’m honestly heartbroken,” he wrote on Twitter.

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“Jamal was one of the nicest, most down to earth and humble men I’ve met in this industry. He always gave me time even when no one else would.

“He was an inspiration and what he achieved in life was truly remarkable. Thinking of his friends and family at this devastating time. RIP Jamal Edwards.”

Zarah Sultana, Labour’s MP for Coventry, said: “The impact SBTV had on the UK’s music scene and British culture is immeasurable. Rest in peace, Jamal Edwards. My thoughts are with everyone who knew and loved him.”

Edwards’ channel, named after his rap name SmokeyBarz, platformed music from artists including Stormzy, Krept & Konan and Rita Ora. Many big-name artists were given exposure on SBTV before they had signed major record deals.

Speaking to The Independent as part of a campaign to get people from all trades and professions to return to their state schools to inspire children in 2013, Edwards said: “It’s important to understand that providing a service is what a good business does. Young entrepreneurs need to find a target market.

“I knew my service was to provide grime and rap videos to my friends. Whatever a person wants to do, it’s important to do it.”

“The best thing about my job is that every morning when I wake up I realise I’m in charge of my fate, which is such an empowering feeling for a young man in Britain today,” he continued.

“It’s overwhelming sometimes, I get anxiety. I’ve actually been told to go to Yoga! It’s all about staying focused.”

Edwards was born in Luton in 1990 and grew up in west London.

Having studied at Ealing College, he received a BTec diploma in media moving image and worked at men’s retailer Topman while developing his music platform.

Edwards also turned his hand to multiple philanthropic and social endeavours, including in mental health awareness and the funding of youth centres.

In 2021, he established Jamal Edwards Delve, a grassroots charity providing young people in London with employment, training and networking opportunities.

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