Rest in peace to the generational Jamal Edwards


Jamal Edwards is one of the most critical culture shifters that black Britain and Britain as a whole has witnessed since the turn of the century. In only 31 years, he was able to uplift, inspire, and drive the transition of Black British underground talent into the mainstream - a literal bridge between the channel U era to the growing digital prominence of the culture we see today. It really cannot be overstated how much of a staple SBTV was to the black youth of a whole generation.

Listening to SBTV freestyles, cyphers, and warm-up sessions during lunch breaks, on the back of the bus, or on the train was a shared experience for many. What Jamal produced was part of a culture in which so many people grew up on the black British media scene, and as a result, the black British media landscape is in an incomparably better place.

The loss of Jamal Edwards yesterday puts into perspective not only how much was achieved, but how many lives were affected through his work. Condolences of course, must be given to Brenda Edwards, Jamal’s Mother. She described her son as the centrepiece of her world, and the agony of losing a child so early means that prayers for comfort and peace will be extended to his sister Tasha and the rest of the Edwards family.

Observing the expansion of the platform and Jamal himself in real-time proved to be another sort of inspiration for a generation of black creators who, through digital platforms, suddenly had the power to show their talents through channels which they owned. Tobi Oredein, the founder of Black Ballard, reacted to the news by saying that the lifestyle platform would not exist without Jamal Edwards and SBTV, and that the sense of perspective will be shared by many within this ambitious generation of black British creators, almost all of whom came after the SBTV boom.

Jamal Edwards was also acutely aware of the significance of using his platform to engage these same groups in bigger societal issues, whether through the creation of mental health films or the support of OBV's 2017 election ad encouraging ‘black and minority ethnic’ people to vote. His hand could be seen in Channel 4's recent Black to Front campaign; the love he had in his community of Acton, West London, was reciprocated. He established youth clubs in the area, and his reputation as a model of excellence was immortalised in a mural erected last year.

OBV's Ashok Viswanathan said today: Our controversial Saatchi & Saatchi Advert in 2017 was turned down by many celebrities who were worried about putting their head above the parapet despite the cross fire. There were no such qualms with Jamal, he was a pioneer in his creativity, courage and campaigning, and embraced each with enthusiasm, energy and elegance. RIP Jamal.

Rest in peace Jamal Edwards, the embodiment of innovation and a giant in British culture.

Mayowa Ayodele