UK music entrepreneur Jamal Edwards dies at 31 'of sudden illness'

Jamal Edwards' YouTube channel SB.TV was seen as a key force in British rap for several years. PHOTO: JAMAL EDWARDS/TWITTER

LONDON (NYTIMES) - Jamal Edwards, the founder of a music YouTube channel that gave an early platform to British rap stars including Stormzy and Skepta, as well as pop stars like Ed Sheeran, died on Sunday (Feb 20). He was 31.

His death of "a sudden illness" was confirmed by his mother, Brenda Edwards, a well-known TV presenter in Britain.

"Jamal was an inspiration to myself and so many," she said in a statement.

Edwards set up the YouTube channel SB.TV in 2006, at first posting clips of rappers performing on street corners and in public housing projects. A few years later, he widened the channel's focus to include interviews, and music in other styles, including pop from emerging artists.

Edwards posted a video of Ed Sheeran in 2010, more than a year before the British singer-songwriter released his first single on a major label. Sheeran went on to make several videos for the channel. In a clip from 2017, he credited SB.TV with "starting my career properly".

The channel had accumulated 1.2 million subscribers at the time of Edwards' death, and was seen as a key force in British rap for several years, even as other YouTube channels gained more subscribers and a higher profile.

Despite the underground roots of Edwards' fame, he had long been recognised by Britain's establishment. In 2014, he went to Buckingham Palace, the home of Britain's royal family, to receive one of the country's highest honours for his services to music, the MBE ( Member of the Order of the British Empire).

On Monday, numerous British music stars praised Edwards.

The singer Rita Ora, who recorded clips for SB.TV early in her career, paid tribute in an Instagram post to the belief Edwards had shown "in me and so many of us before we even believed in ourselves".

Sheeran has not commented publicly so far on Edwards' death. Incidentally, Edwards' last Instagram post last Thursday was a birthday tribute to the Bad Habits singer.

"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 and inspiring us all," Edwards wrote.

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