Jamal Edwards, a British entrepreneur and YouTube star who founded the online music platform SBTV, has died aged 31. His cause of death is unknown.
Born in Luton, and raised in Acton, Edwards was the son of Brenda Edwards, who was a contestant on the second season of The X Factor UK. She finished in fourth place in 2005.
At a young age, Edwards was introduced to theatre at school, and had aspirations in the music industry.
During his school years, he started rapping and would film himself with his friends in videos that would eventually make their way to YouTube, starting the early stages of SBTV in 2006.
Eventually it would spin off to become its own music platform website, although much of its content can also be seen on YouTube. Edwards worked at UK retail chain Topman for four years to financially support himself.
“I think in the early days people didn’t take me as seriously,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “I was working at Topman, doing a moving image course at college and just wanted creative control over something. So I just filmed what was around me."
SBTV is credited with helping launch the career of many UK artists including Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Stormzy and Rita Ora. Edwards was appointed an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to music in 2014. As a channel on YouTube, SBTV: Music currently has 1.22 million subscribers and more than 818 million views across its videos.
In addition to the music platform, Edwards's talents spread across other ventures. In 2013, he released an e-book called Self Believe: The Vision: How to be a Success on Your Own Terms. He entered the fashion world, having collaborated with American Freshman on a headwear collection at Topman in 2019. He also walked the catwalk for Hermes and fronted a collection for Kurt Geiger.
Another priority of Edwards' was giving back to his community and helping to mentor the younger generation. After securing funding from Google and the Wellcome Trust, Edwards launched the Jamal Edwards Delve in 2019. The grassroots youth charity is aimed at helping young people with opportunities to learn, work and connect while building a sense of community in the local area.
In 2020, he announced a partnership with the UK Department of Education to help encourage creative young people to consider undertaking apprenticeships to hone their skill sets.
"There’s still an assumption that you can only do apprenticeships in trades like plumbing and construction. That view really needs to be reversed,” he said.
"It’s been incredible to be given the creative freedom to produce something like this. I am really excited to be able to be part of this project and work with this talented group of apprentices, share my network and help fire them up for the future."
He worked with other youth charities and regularly made visits to speak to teenagers, including at both Acton High School and West London College where he had studied, to answer questions on how to be successful in business and self-motivation.
His final post on social media was an Instagram birthday post to Sheeran on February 18. "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 & inspiring us all G!," he captioned a photo of the two together.
Celebrity tributes to Jamal Edwards
A number of celebrities have taken to social media to pay tribute to the young entrepreneur. British-Zimbabwean comedian Munyaradzi Chawawa thanked Edwards for the "incredibly legacy" that he's left behind.
Rapper Big Narstie shared his disbelief at the news saying the two were supposed to work on a music video together later this week. Fellow British YouTuber Memeulous said that Edwards was "easily one of the most influential people of the last 15 years in the UK, did so much for so many people, RIP".
Chelsea FC, Edwards's favourite football team, also honoured him.
"We're deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jamal Edwards An inspiration to many, we're honoured that he was part of our Chelsea family. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew and loved him," the club wrote on Instagram while sharing a photo of him at Stamford Bridge.
Even YouTube, the platform that helped Edwards reach his music dreams, issued a comment on his death.
"We’ve lost a legend today. Jamal Edwards was an inspiration to so many, supporting artists and shaping culture through @SBTVonline," YouTube tweeted.
English dancer and choreographer Ashley Banjo, most notably from the dance group Diversity, also tweeted his disbelief at the news, while calling Jamal a "true visionary and pioneer who inspired and opened doors for so many".