Stars including Mahalia and Max Cyrus have paid tribute to music entrepreneur Jamal Edwards – someone who “turned on the light in the room” for others to shine.
Along with the YouTube star’s mother Brenda, they spoke to Sky News at the Music Industry Trusts Award (MITS) 2022 ceremony – at which he became the first recipient of the prize to be honoured posthumously.
Edwards, a YouTube star who helped launch the careers of artists including Ed Sheeran, Dave, Rita Ora and Jessie J, died suddenly at home in Acton, west London, in February at the age of 31.
Speaking as she was due to accept the prestigious MITS prize on her son’s behalf, for his outstanding contribution to the industry, Ms Edwards said he had been a “voice of calm” to many in the entertainment industry and beyond.
“I just wish I had that voice around me a bit more now,” she said.
Music stars including Jorja Smith, Little Simz, Mahalia and Cyrus were on the bill performing at the ceremony held in Edwards’ memory, as he joined previous winners including Kylie Minogue, Pete Tong, Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.
Attending with her daughter Tanisha – both wearing blue as a nod to Chelsea FC, the club Edwards supported – Ms Edwards told Sky News: “I’m very proud to be receiving this award on behalf of Jamal. Very sad, obviously. I still haven’t come to terms with it, in a way of… he’s gone, I’m still on the ‘he’s here’.
“I have so many conversations with so many people talking about him in the present and I think that brings me quite a bit of joy because it shows that his legacy is still alive and what he wanted to achieve is still going.”
Born in Luton before moving to west London as a child, Edwards grew up on a council estate and went on to be appointed an MBE for services to music as well as an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, which helps young people set up their own businesses.
His online urban music platform SBTV helped dozens of UK artists rise to prominence over the years.
At the MITS ceremony, he was remembered for his championing of young artists, but also for his work with good causes including mental health and homelessness charities.
“That was so important, he put it down into his last wishes that I continue what he’s doing and focus on mental health and wellbeing and young people, and focus on helping the homeless,” Ms Edwards said.
“Those were both things that he championed from a very, very young age. And he would go every single year at Christmas to help out in a homeless shelter for young people.”
Ms Edwards, a singer who appeared on X Factor and is also a panellist on Loose Women, said her son was a “behind the scenes person and was very shy”, but after his death people wanted to learn about the man who helped kickstart “all these amazing careers”.
She added: “I’m very proud of that, and the determination that he had and the tenacity that he had. And for him, the word wasn’t impossible. It was ‘I’m possible’. And I hold on to that all the time…
“I’m very proud of what he achieved. And I’m hoping that with us continuing the legacy that other young people will see: ‘I can achieve it’. If you just believe it, you can.”
‘He turned on the light in the room for others to shine’
MOBO winner Mahalia, who was helped by Edwards when she was 12, told Sky News: “I think being from Leicester, trying to penetrate an industry that is kind of solely based in London felt pretty impossible…
“I remember meeting Jamal and just saying to him, ‘can I sing for you?’ and him saying, ‘yeah’. At that point he was really kind of having a moment in the music industry, and for him to give me just a couple minutes of his time… I think is really telling of the kind of guy he was.
“It was him that gave me my first YouTube debut. I think he is and was an incredible man. I think people particularly coming through right now can learn a lot from him, to be honest.”
Cyrus, the musician and producer, who had worked with Edwards, described him as “a phenomenal human being with a great heart”.
He added: “Far too often we sometimes forget about the people who open the doors for others… he [turned] on the light in the room for others to have a light shone on them.”
In August, a coroner concluded that Edwards died after taking drugs and suffering cardiac arrhythmia.
After his death, his mother warned others of the dangers of taking recreational drugs, saying in a statement: “Jamal is proof that this can happen to anyone. His passing has shown that one bad decision on any one occasion can lead to devastating consequences.”