Jamal Edwards remembered by Professor Green

24 August 1990 – 20 February 2022
The rapper recalls the enthusiastic and warmhearted young music entrepreneur who helped launch Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and many more – and gave hope to inner-city kids

I first met Jamal, like so many musicians did, through SBTV, the company he set up when he was 16. He began it as a YouTube channel in 2006, the year after YouTube began, with a small camcorder and a phone. I met him in 2010, around the time his career and mine were starting to catapult.

I did an F64 [Fresh 64], an SBTV format of 64 bars of freestyle rap, with original lyrics, which went viral. Formats like that and SBTV’s warm-up sessions kicked off the careers of lots of artists, including Stormzy and Dave.

I recorded it twice – something went wrong with the recording the first time – and I was anxious, but Jamal was so great. He was younger than me, but he had so many ideas. And he was an actual pioneer – he started SBTV before social media was happening. Even when I did my F64, YouTube was far from the platform it is now. He was so ahead of the curve.

From that first meeting on, I was impressed with Jamal’s energy. It had nothing to do with ego or airs and graces, and everything to do with enthusiasm. He was so willing to graft. When I’d meet him, when I was tired or stressed, he’d remind me to focus, that there was work to be done. He also immersed himself in music more than so many people I know, and not just grime, rap and hip-hop. Ed Sheeran’s explosion into the mainstream was thanks to Jamal championing him too. [A Sheeran performance exclusive to SBTV in 2010 went viral, attracting the attention of his future manager, who got him a deal with Atlantic Records. “I really don’t think I would have been allowed through certain doors if it hadn’t been for Jamal,” Sheeran said, having remained a close friend of Edwards, earlier this year].

Professor Green and Jamal Edwards in 2014.
Professor Green and Jamal Edwards in 2014. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

He always allowed time for people, whoever they were. When you meet most people in this industry, they ask a fleeting ‘How are you?’, and they want you to say quickly, ‘I’m fine’, but Jamal really wanted to know how you were doing. He wanted to have a heart-to-heart every time I saw him, even if we were at a gig or an event or an awards ceremony or whatever. He was clearly well-raised by his mum, Brenda [Edwards, the singer and presenter of the TV chat show Loose Women], and was always polite, a real gentleman.

He was especially committed to championing artists who came from impoverished areas, and music that came out of those places, like hip-hop did back in the 1980s. He understood kids who grew up in dire, sometimes savage circumstances whose only outlet was music. He knew the hardship kids went through when they grew up in inner cities, where they go out to play and see things they shouldn’t. He knew that sometimes kids don’t learn things at home, or they have parents who are struggling to work and raise their kids, and they are raised instead by the estate where they live. He knew it takes a strong community to raise a happy child. It was his biggest wish to make this happen for so many young people.

Jamal Edwards being awarded his CBE for services to music at Buckingham Palace in 2015.
Jamal Edwards being awarded his CBE for services to music at Buckingham Palace in 2015. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

He got involved in charity work very quickly after SBTV took off. He did so much, setting up youth programmes and funding youth centres, wanting to give young people life skills and self-belief, show them more opportunities. That was what he loved doing in his spare time when he wasn’t working with music. He wanted to show kids the positives that are out there, and how they could make their lives better. He did it brilliantly.

It’s hard to think of Jamal not being here because his influence is everywhere in so much music today. I know his energy will keep going because the inspiration he gave to so many people is so strong. I think of Jamal’s smile when I think of him – it was the kind that puts a smile on to any face straight away. His happiness was infectious. I also think of a person who was constantly building upon his success, not because he wanted world domination, but because he wanted to keep on giving back.


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