Photographer Jamal Edwards Reflects on Grime's Early Days

He takes us back to 2006.

Music
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[gallery columns="3"][gallery columns="3"]Jamal Edwards started filming videos for grime veterans back in 2006 on a Handycam that his mother had purchased him for Christmas. At the time, he started SBTV (Smokey Barz) as a response to the lack of original content surrounding the burgeoning grime and UK rap scene. Edwards started filming his friends and garnered positive feedback, promoting a new way of discovering music with his F64 format — a 64-bar challenge for MCs to spit their best bars. It’s been ten years since, and in honor of his work and legacy, DAZED linked up with Edwards for a conversation reflecting on grime’s early days. Check the full conversation out here and read some highlights below.

When you were first starting out, how did you find those emerging artists and get them agree to be on SBTV?

In the beginning, the channel really only featured my friends, and then my friend’s network. Eventually, I started approaching random people, for example, I remember I went to Egg Nightclub and I started filming Shortie, Little Dee, Griminal, and there were quite a few people. I just went up to them and asked: “Can I film you for my YouTube channel?” I told them I was building my own channel and was hoping to get a few views so would love to include some freestyle videos.

Did you then use that as a launch pad to take the channel beyond your own mates?

Once I had a few known names I started randomly getting in touch with people, travelling further and further to places in north and east London, and then I went outside of the UK, and I just went all these different places I’d never been. A lot of the times I would just jump on the train, and if I didn’t have money for trains I would just bump it. After I did that a few times my friends would drive me around too. We did long journeys at that time to places that couldn’t seem further apart like Rayners lane to Walthamstow, it felt mad.

At any point did it ever dawn on you that your handycam project could potentially earn you an MBE one day?

Nah man, never. The rappers, producers and singers, that I filmed contributed to the platform as much as I did. We worked as a partnership to make it what it is today. I never thought in a million years I would go from filming on the streets to accepting an MBE at the palace. When I first started I never thought “yeah, I want to get an MBE”, but now I have that anything is possible.

What do you think the difference is now with starting up an online channel, or even an online empire?

I think there is a lot of competition now, but you have to remember you need to make your stuff stand out. Even though there is a lot of competition, it is exciting to be able to think of new ideas, formats, and artists. That is what excited me every day. If you stay in your lane and have a clear vision of what you want to do then you shouldn’t be distracted from wanting to make a channel just because of other people in the same field. Do stuff that people are not doing, and if they are doing it, then you have to think, “how can I make this better?”

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