London native Jamal Edwards rose to fame online, and launched the hit urban-focused, alternative media channel SB.TV. Now, the British producer is looking to grime up the United States. We caught up with him at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and got the good word on his new showcase, what he looks for in new talent, and the spiritual wisdom that gets him through the day.
How’s it going Jamal? To start, can you tell us where you’re from?
I’m from London – West London – and right now, we are in Austin, Texas at South by Southwest.
What brought you to Texas?
I’m here to bring some British culture over to this music festival. In 2011, I was here walking up and down the strip and I didn’t see any UK grime, or UK rap or UK hip-hop and thought, “Why’s that?” Then, an organization called British Underground got in touch and said, “You can do your own showcase”, and I thought, “Why not? That should be fun”.
Tell us about getting your start on YouTube.
I started on YouTube when I was about fifteen years old, when it was only a year old and had just been bought by Google. I wasn’t really finding videos online that I wanted to watch, so I decided that I wanted to film an artist that wasn’t being represented by mainstream media and get it online. After a certain period of time, it just kept on growing and growing.
Talk a little about the development of new media; it’s such a constant these days…
I think new media is scary, and it has its pros and cons. I obviously build myself up in social media, and I feel that in the right hands it can create something great. What new media has done is allowed a bunch of whole new artists to come into the mainstream awareness and made everything easier, and more accessible for people to learn and perfect their craft.
What do you think some of the old school rappers, like Biggie or Pac, would think of social media?
I don’t know. Biggie and Pac on social media would be quite a sight – it would be quite interesting! I don’t know if I can picture Biggie tweeting, and Pac be like “fuck the system” or something like that. I don’t know, but I guess you get with the times. I think it would be quite interesting to see how those people would have a take on it now.
How important is your audience to you, as a producer instead of a musician?
The satisfaction for me is audience. Walking into the showcase and having the audience come up to me and say things like “I love your channel”. The audience is the most important thing.
What do you see as the future for SB.TV?
It’ll just keep on developing. I think SB.TV now is ten years old, and people say that ten years is halfway to a career, so over the next ten years I’m going to find platforms that I’m going to collaborate on, new artists, concepts, all that stuff. Localizing SB.TV across the world and the US. I feel like it’s just the beginning.
Tell us about the MBE.
It’s mad. The MBE is an award you get from the queen in the UK. When I got the letter I was just like “What? I’m twenty-four years old; you’re not supposed to get the MBE till you’re fifty!” There was a rumor that I was the youngest in music since The Beatles to get that award. It was surreal when I went to the palace. I got a tweet from Richard Branson and he was like “one day you’ll be a sir.” I’m not trying to aim like that. If that happens, I’ll be good, but it’s good to know that I have people’s blessings.
What’s that book you’ve got there?
This is my great ‘The Power of Now’.
Looks like it’s well read.
Yeah, yeah. This is the one.
Tell us one of the more important things from that book?
I don’t have a phrase off the top of my head but it’s like, even though I’m proper tired, that’s only my mind telling me I’m tired. That’s what made me get up and want to do stuff today. I just could’ve said “A’ight cool, I’m just going to fall asleep and sleep to the end of the evening, get on a plane and get back to London”, but that’s just my mind stopping me.