Jamal Edwards, UK music entrepreneur and SBTV founder, dies at 31

FILE - Jamal Edwards poses on the red carpet on arrival for the BRIT Awards 2019 in London on Feb. 20, 2019. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

Jamal Edwards, British music entrepreneur and founder of a YouTube channel that provided an early platform to several U.K. rappers as well as pop stars like Ed Sheeran, has died. He was 31.

Edwards’ death was confirmed on Monday by his mother, broadcaster Brenda Edwards, who said her son had died the day before after a "sudden illness."

"Jamal was an inspiration to myself and so many," she said in a statement, adding that the family was "completely devastated. He was the center of our world."

As a teenager in 2006, Edwards founded the online music channel SBTV amid frustration that he couldn’t find the music he loved online. He started filming rap performances by friends in his west London neighborhood and later widened the channel’s focus to include other musical styles and interviews, according to the New York Times.

In 2010, Edwards posted a video of Sheeran over a year before the British singer-songwriter released his first single on a major label. Sheeran later credited SBTV with helping to start his career. 

SBTV now has more than 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube and has helped a generation of performers, including rappers like Stormzy, Skepta and Dave, gain national and international attention.

"It was a frustration of going to school and everyone talking about ‘How do we get our videos on MTV,’" Edwards later recalled. "YouTube was like a year old. I was like ‘I’ve got a camera for Christmas, I’m going to start filming people and uploading it.’

"Everyone was looking at me like ‘what are you doing, like you can compete with these major corporations.' But I think I was early enough to believe that I could make a change."

Edwards was given an MBE, an honor from the queen, in 2014 for services to music and was an ambassador for Prince Charles’ charity, the Prince’s Trust.

Prince Charles' Clarence House office tweeted: "Thinking of the family of Jamal Edwards today. 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."

Edwards' sudden death shocked Britain’s entertainment business.

"My first ever interview was with you. Jamal," singer Rita Ora wrote on Instagram. "Our endless talks on music and the belief you had in me and so many of us before we even believed in ourselves. I’m devastated."

Actor Adam Deacon said he was "heartbroken."

"Jamal was one of the nicest, most down to earth and humble men I’ve met in this industry. He always gave me time even when no one else would. He was an inspiration and what he achieved in life was truly remarkable."

Rapper and producer Example, whose full name is Elliot Gleave, said: "Can’t believe you’re gone. 31 years old. Can’t find the words right now."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.