“Jamal was an inspiration to myself and so many. Our love for him lives on, ”she said. “… Long live Jamal Edwards MBE, MBA, PHD,” she added, listing his social and academic achievements.
Edwards was instrumental in the rise of a number of global music stars, particularly in rap and grime, after he was given a video camera for Christmas as a 15-year-old. Frustrated with the lack of diversity and access to Black music acts online, he began filming rudimentary footage of artists and documenting the underground London music scene before launching “SmokeyBarz TV” or “SBTV” as a teenager in 2006. The YouTube channel exploded online and had musicians lining up to appear as guests.
SBTV now has more than 1.2 million subscribers and helped a generation of performers, including rappers such as Stormzy, Skepta and Davegain international attention.
Rapper Drake wrote on Instagram that he was “sending condolences and love” to Edwards’s friends and family, sharing a photo of them together. Actor Idris Elba paid tribute and said the young music pioneer would be missed. “We just lost one,” Elba said tweeted.
Singer Jessie J championed his work ethic, family focus and “dedication to making a difference not just in this industry but in this world,” she wrote on Instagram, sharing behind-the-scenes videos of the pair. “We had plans bro. I can’t believe this is real, ”she added.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “British music and entertainment has lost one of its brightest stars,” while former British Prime Minister David Cameron applauded Edwards’s work with community projects and young people, calling his death a “sad loss.”
Edwards also maintained a close friendship with musician and songwriter Ed Sheeran. In his final Instagram post last week, he wished Sheeran a happy birthday and wrote: “Blessed to have you in my life brother. You know you’ve been mates a long time when you lose count on the years! Keep smashing it. ”
Sheeran has yet to comment publicly on Edwards’s death.
“My first ever interview was with you. Jamal, ”singer Rita Ora wrote on Instagram. “Our endless talks on music and the belief you had in me and so many of us before we even believed in ourselves. I’m devastated. ”
After founding SBTV, Edwards went on to earn an MBA and was awarded an MBE in 2015, an accolade from Britain’s royal family, for his services to music. He also worked as an ambassador to the Prince’s Trust, a charity founded by Prince Charles to grant more opportunities to young people through employment, education and enterprise.
“Thinking of the family of Jamal Edwards today. His work in music but also as an ambassador for a new generation, including his work for The Prince’s Trust, were an inspiration to so many, ”Charles’s official Twitter account posted on Monday.
“What a loss of a truly extraordinary young man who made a huge difference to so many people’s lives,” Branson said tweeted.
So sad to hear about the passing of Jamal Edwards MBE. What a loss of a truly extraordinary young man who made a huge difference to so many people’s lives.
– Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 21, 2022
British actor Femi Oyeniran said it was hard to overstate Edwards’s impact on Black British culture and his work in creating a platform and being present at the foundation of many careers.
“His legacy transcends music, transcends entrepreneurship,” Oyeniran said in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News.
“I’m struggling to think of a more important Black British person… he’s touched a lot of people’s lives.”
Edwards once Saïd in an interview that he had a lonely start to his career.
“YouTube was like a year old. I was like ‘I’ve got a camera for Christmas, I’m going to start filming people and uploading it,’ “he said. “Everyone was looking at me like, ‘What are you doing, like you can compete with these major corporations.’ But I think I was early enough to believe that I could make a change. ”
His self-belief carried him, as he tweeted in 2012: “The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
: We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.
– Jamal Edwards MBE, MBA (@jamaledwards) January 25, 2012