Ten years ago, Jamal Edwards was a kid uploading videos of his friends rapping and singing onto YouTube, like millions of teens everywhere. Today, he's a multimillionaire with his own entertainment company, able to fondly recall the time his website crashed because so many people had searched his name in the wake of a Google Chrome ad. SBTV has more than 537,000 subscribers on YouTube, and its self-produced music videos, exclusive musical performances and artist interviews rack up millions of views.
Edwards says SBTV was born from a desire to create a community around the London grime scene he loved – the SB stands for Smokey Barz, his own grime performance name – which wasn't being represented by the mainstream. "Many people just saw kids rapping on [public housing] estates," he explains. "I saw Grime, and to me it was more than that: a lifestyle, an outlook on life. I found it very interesting."
In more recent years, SBTV has started presenting more pop fare, like an Ed Sheeran video that's gotten over 8.4 million views, and launched a record label under Sony called Just Jam. To hear Edwards talk, the more SBTV takes on, the better. "I would love to see some of the larger corporations working with younger creatives in a less patronizing way," he says. "If we are intelligent enough to build and sustain audiences, I'm sure we can execute some of the larger branded campaigns out there. Some of the big corporations try to treat people like myself as just talent, but we are the media businesses of tomorrow."