U.S. Ambassador Matthew Barzun with Jamal Edwards, Ozwald Boateng and Frank Lampard on 30 November 2015Flickr/U.S. Embassy London (https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassylondon/23311602812)

The first video I had ever watched on SBTV was the official video for Santan Dave’s “JKYL+HYD”, where he explores the struggle between balancing college, wanting to make money on streets, and the facade younger people, who have been groomed into street violence, play into. In the song Dave says, “word to Jamal my time soon comes shortly, a nod to Jamal Edwards, the founder of SBTV and former rapper known by the stage name SmokeyBarz.

STBV launched in 2006 as an online media platform for emerging UK artists. As Dave put it, it gave opportunities to some of the most prominent figures of UK music in the last decade: Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Jessie J, Krept & Konan, Nines, Bugzy Malone and many more.

“The mural was covered in flowers, candles and notes from the vigil held on the night of his passing”

The channel hosts many musical genres, but UK rap, particularly grime, is at its core. Before VEVO was willing to give out certifications to UK rappers and the establishment of platforms like GRM Daily and Mixtape Madness, Edwards’ SBTV supported artists and platformed grime. SBTV worked its way up from a channel for underground rappers to garnering over a million subscribers and even landing Edwards the opportunity to film Dr. Dre on tour.

The next time I would hear Dave speak about the opportunities Jamal Edwards gave to him was at a concert in March at the O2. The rapper was coming off his second sold out show for the “We’re All Alone In This Together” tour. It had been nine days since the press had unceremoniously leaked the news of Jamal Edwards’ passing before his family were able to make a statement. In front of 17,000 attendees, who had travelled to Greenwich through rain, train cancellations and tube strikes, he opened up about the chance Jamal took on him.

Dave performing "JKYL+HYD", the song in which he makes reference to Jamal EdwardsYOUTUBE/SBTV: MUSIC

As a 19-year-old college student in south London, Dave had a desire to film a music video but was unable to fund it. Edwards filmed, edited and promoted his videos for free. He attracted over six million views on the two videos posted on SBTV and six years later, Santan Dave sold out the O2 Arena on back-to-back nights.

A tribute video, dedicated to Jamal Edwards, played before Dave’s speech and featured early SBTV clips from Ed Sheeran, J Hus and Dave himself. It included small parts of an interview with Edwards where he talked of wanting to chase his dreams. Audio played behind a picture of Edwards; conversations from artists he supported and words from his mother, Brenda Edwards: singer and Loose Women panellist. The mother and son duo were the epitome of “making it” the very definition of Black British excellence.

“It was the feeling I got after watching Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave and Bukayo Saka in the Euros: it felt like hometown pride”

With tube strikes continuing and buses unable to get out of Greenwich due to crowds, my friend and I walked through the rain at 1am, hoping to find a quiet residential street away from the traffic where we could call a taxi home. With post-concert blues in full effect, cold and miserable from the rain and furious after paying £80 for a cab, we finally left south-east London and made our way back home.

At 3am we drove through Acton High Street and I caught a glimpse of the mural Matt Small created for Jamal Edwards last year. I’d first seen the mural a few months back and it was the first time I realised I’d grown up in the same area as Jamal Edwards. It was the feeling I got after watching Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave and Bukayo Saka in the Euros: it felt like hometown pride.


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The mural was covered in flowers, candles and notes from the vigil held on the night of his passing. In the heart of Acton, a town which had been steadily pushing out its residents due to gentrification, stood the same image I’d seen mere hours before in the O2 Arena: Edwards with his signature snapback and the words “Self Belief” written across it.

Almost every homage to Edwards I’ve seen in the two months since his passing have expressed his need for self-belief. Perhaps it was carried by platforming grime, which is often so scrutinised, or needing to embody something he wanted the artists he supported to have or coming from Acton, which has countlessly failed to protect its youth. The extent of Edward’s legacy is proof of the importance of self-belief but with his passing, his self-belief is carried through Ealing and the rest of the UK; through grime and the countless other genres he platformed; through the artists he took a chance on and their successes later; through Brenda Edwards; through SBTV, and the countless other UK rap centred platforms which came after him; and through Black Britain.