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Remembering Jamal Edwards 1990-2022

Jamal Edwards has been a great friend to UD over the years. It’s with such great sadness to learn of his passing on Sunday. Jamal aka Smokey Barz, founder of SBTV & a true champion of Black music, has touched so many lives, including ours at UD. We take time to reflect…

As evidenced by the outpouring of love on social media, Jamal was first and foremost, one of the kindest people you could wish to meet. No one has a bad word to say about Jamal. He carried himself with integrity, humility and passion, putting the music and desire to push others often before himself.

His work – his legacy – changed the very culture of DIY music culture and the landscape of Black music in the UK and beyond. While boasting many firsts, his work consistently changed the pace of the industry and will be felt far and wide, for many years to come. 

It was at west London youth centres such as Bollo Brook and Friary Park, where Jamal was able to complete film courses and experiment with music studio equipment, thus feeling the need to create his own opportunities despite his limited resources.

Jamal picked up a camera as a teenager and went from working on the shop floor of Topman to being a Black British entrepreneur, MBE recipient, best-selling author, the man behind the camera and of course, the CEO of the one and only online music platform SB.TV. The platform launched and promoted a range of underground artists from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Jessie J to Dave, Chip, Wretch32, Stormzy, Blade Brown and many more. Jamal significantly contributed to how Black music is discovered and consumed. In 2022, SBTV boasts 10,000 videos focusing heavily on UK Black music, from the popular freestyle series F64 and A64, to interviews and music videos by established artists. In later years Jamal expanded his repertoire, interviewing inspiring individuals in the world of business and entrepreneurship. 

Throughout his career, he accumulated a lengthy list of achievements; becoming one of the Queen’s Young Leaders, he ran the first-ever social media hub at Buckingham Palace. In 2014 he was placed at no. 2 on The Guardian’s Top 30 Young People in Digital Media in 2014 whilst simultaneously receiving an MBE for services to music in 2015. He’s participated in collaborations with Burberry, Puma, BAFTA, YouTube, Cannes Lions, TedX, MTV, The Prince’s Trust and Topman to name but a few. Edwards was also selected by officials from 10 Downing Street to help curate music for The Bill Clinton Foundation. 

Once a kid from the community, always a kid from the community; Jamal always made an effort to give back, raising up the next generation. By obtaining funding from Google and the Wellcome Trust in 2019, Edwards successfully founded The Jamal Edwards Delve (JED), a grassroots youth-centre project, refurbishing and reviving four youth-centres based in Acton, London.

Where UD is concerned, over the years, we’ve been fortunate to work with Jamal on various projects. Whether getting involved in Industry Takeover events or delivering our UD marketing videos for Re-Definition and UDHQ, he was always led by his love of music.

Facilitating joint initiatives with industry giants like Sony Music, identifying amazing performance opportunities for our members, going to their gigs, offering to produce a dedicated SBTV series of them and – the bit we loved the most – personally dropping by the studio to spend time with them. He was beyond generous; he was beyond inspirational. He always championed our young people personally, recently securing Flames a collaboration with Jake Bugg. 

With so much work still underway, including the 8Bars app, Jamal’s passing will be felt far and wide and for a long, long time. Rest in eternal power, Jamal Edwards. 

UD would like to send heartfelt thanks and condolences to Jamal’s family at this difficult time. 

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