Jamal Edwards, the founder of a British YouTube channel that helped nurture the spotlight for music artists such as Ed Sheeran, Skepta, and Stormzy, died suddenly on Sunday at the young age of 31.
According to the music entrepreneur’s mother, Brenda Edwards, his cause of death was only revealed to be a “sudden illness,” with no more information into his unexpected passing released.
“It is with the deepest heartache that I confirm that my beautiful son Jamal Edwards passed away this morning,” the TV presenter’s emotional statement read. “Myself, his sister Tanisha and the rest of his family and friends are completely devastated. He was the center of our world.”
As we come to terms with his passing we ask for privacy to grieve this unimaginable loss,” his mother’s statement continued. “Jamal was an inspiration to myself and so many. Our love for him lives on, his legacy lives on.”
Setting up the SB.TV YouTube channel in 2006, he posted videos of rappers on street corners and public housing projects, The New York Times reported, later widening to include interviews and major breakthroughs for pop artists such as Ed Sheeran.
Growing up in Action, a suburb of London, Jamal Edwards started his YouTube channel at the age of 15 after his mother bought him a video camera for Christmas. His friends and artists in the area, most of whom rapped as part of the emerging Grime music genre in the early 2000’s, wanted a way to get featured since they didn’t have the budget to get placed on MTV.
Filming his friends Skepta and Stormzy, key members of the Grime movement who have since released No. 1 records on the UK music charts, SB.TV quickly grew to have over 1.2 million subscribers. Other well-known British artists, such as Rita Ora, Jessie J, and Dave, have also thanked Jamal Edwards over the years for helping them get their start.
“My first ever interview was with you. Jamal, Our endless talks on music and the belief you had in me and so many of us before we even believed in ourselves,” Rita Ora remembered in an Instagram tribute. “I’m devastated. No words can describe how grateful I am to of been in your presence. Thank you for all you ever showed me.”
Edwards was also well known for his philanthropy, founding a charity called JE Delve which works with his neighborhood youth programs. He was also an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, beginning in 2014, that helped young entrepreneurs follow in his footsteps and set up their own independent companies.
In 2015, he was invited to Buckingham Palace, the home of the British monarchy’s royal family, where he met Prince William and was awarded the Member of the British Empire medal, one of the country’s highest honors in arts and science achievement.
“Most kids who come from where I come from would never believe they could go to Buckingham Palace in a million years,” Jamal Edwards told The Guardian after his visit. “Maybe seeing me do that will give them more self-belief.”
The family plans to hold a vigil Monday night next to the mural of Jamal Edwards on Acton High Street in London, which was created by artist Matt Small in 2020.
“Join us tonight at 7:30 p.m. for a candlelight vigil in loving memory of our local hero Jamal Edwards,” said Kal Di Paola, a spokesperson for the grassroots public arts project Acton Unframed. “We hope that the vigil will help those that knew him (or of him), to come together to process their grief and to show their respect and admiration for a young man who has achieved so much in his short life and done so much for his community.”