Jamal Edwards, a renowned YouTube media and music entrepreneur, died of a “sudden illness” at his mother’s home in Acton, London, according to his family. He was 31.
Edwards’ mother, singer and actress Brenda Edwards, confirmed her son’s death in a statement issued through her show, “Loose Women,” on British streaming TV network ITV.
“It is with the deepest heartache that I confirm that my beautiful son Jamal Edwards passed away yesterday morning after a sudden illness,” Brenda said. “Myself, his sister Tanisha and the rest of his family and friends are completely devastated. He was the centre of our world.”
The family asked for “privacy to grieve this unimaginable loss” and thanked everyone for their love and support. “Jamal was an inspiration to myself and so many,” his mother said. “Our love for him lives on, his legacy lives on.”
Edwards began building his empire in his teens on YouTube after receiving a video camera for his 15th birthday. He had a knack for finding artists with extreme talent and sharing their musical gifts with the world by uploading videos of them to the platform.
In 2006, Edwards turned his hobby into a business when he founded SBTV – an online media platform that helps discover emerging artists. Frustrated by the lack of exposure diverse artists received, Edwards decided to do something about it.
“’Be the change you want to see in the world’ is one of my favorite quotes and something I’m trying to live by,” Edwards once said. “If we can look at music and culture in the same way, people won’t be told, ‘No you can’t do that.’ They will chase bigger dreams and be free to express themselves how they want. The arts can be the most powerful vehicle for change and should be respected as such.”
His company’s YouTube channel had more than 1.2 million subscribers at the time of this writing.
Ed Sheeran, Jessie J and Stormzy are among the artists Edwards is credited with helping to launch careers. Sheeran and Jessie J remembered Edwards in emotional Instagram posts.
“I haven’t posted anything coz I can’t find the words, I can’t reply coz I don’t know what to say. Jamal is my brother. His light shone so bright. He only used it to illuminate others and never asked for anything in return,” Sheeran wrote. “I would not be here without him, professionally and personally. There will never be anything close to what he is, but I’m so grateful to have existed within his orbit. My brother, come on.”
“Your light. Your ideas. Your love for your Mum and your sister. Your work ethic. Your dedication to making a difference not just in this industry but in this world. Your laugh. Your laugh,” Jessie J wrote in the caption of a video showing her singing to Edwards, along with a broken heart emoji. “Your care for every person you met was unmatched. But your friendship… Phew. That’s why my heart is broken. We had plans bro. I can’t believe this is real. I love you @jamaledwards.”
In his last Instagram post, Edwards expressed a similar affection for Sheeran. “Happy Birthday to the OG, Ed. Blessed to have you in my life brother,” Edwards wrote. “You know you’ve been mates a long time when you lose count on the years! Keep smashing it & inspiring us all G!”
Born Aug. 24, 1990, in Luton, England, Edwards was the oldest of two children. In addition to his business acumen, he was a skilled director, DJ, bestselling author, and philanthropist who worked with youth-focused charities.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 61: Cedric J. Rogers Part 1:
Jamarlin talks to Cedric Rogers and Shaun Newsum, co-founders of Culture Genesis, a digital studio focused on remixing technology for underserved audiences.
In 2015, Edwards was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) at Buckingham Palace.
Tributes poured in from royalty, politicians, celebrities and fans when news of Edwards’ death was announced.
“Thinking of the family of Jamal Edwards today,” tweeted Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, whom Edwards collaborated with as a member of the Prince’s Trust. “His work in music but also as an ambassador for a new generation, including his work for The Prince’s Trust, were an inspiration to so many.”
“British music and entertainment has lost one of its brightest stars. My thoughts are with Jamal’s loved ones at this terribly sad time,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted.
“We’ve lost a legend today,” YouTube tweeted from its official account. “Jamal Edwards was an inspiration to so many, supporting artists and shaping culture through @SBTVonline. Sending our condolences to Jamal’s family & community.”
“You @jamaledwards will be missed. We just lost one,” actor Idris Elba tweeted.
“Thank you for everything, words can’t explain,” British rapper Dave wrote, accentuated by heart and praying emojis.
A candlelight vigil was held on Monday, Feb. 21 to honor Edwards in West London. One of his tweets from 2012 is being heavily quoted.
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will,” Edwards wrote.
PHOTO: Jamal Edwards at the Britain London Fashion Week S/S 2014 – Burberry – Arrivals in London on Monday, September 16, 2013. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)