text Chantelle FiDDy photograPhy MiChael Otero Grime Pays
With over 11 million youtube views, SB.TV’s Jamal is grime’s Simon cowell
Any MC looking to garner approval is ringing SB.TV right now: a (mostly) one-man broadcasting unit.
Gone are the days when the only way grime paid was as an artist or DJ – a new wave of teen entrepreneurs are helping redefine the role of new media and putting the final nail in the coffin of pirate radio.
Three years ago, Jamal Edwards – most commonly referred to as SB, or Smokey Barz – was like any other bored teenager: desperately seeking the latest freestyles from his favourite British MCs online, but to little or no avail. Fed up that his “talented mates” weren’t being heard either, the west Londoner decided to start an online channel to showcase their talents.
“It was hard work,” says Edwards. “I’ve never had lessons in filming or editing, I just bought the camera and learned through trial and error, and Google tutorials. Plus I had to really prove myself. When I first started it was kinda hard getting in touch with all of the top artists.”
Now aged 19, Edwards boasts 15,000 subscribers on YouTube, 11 million views, his own website sbtv.co.uk, and hordes of kids asking for work experience. But his bedroom is still his editing suite.
His recent brainchild, a freestyle series called F64 (the minimum number of bars a lyricist should spit to camera to prove their credentials), has seen the likes of Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk clearly demonstrate their street worthiness, while artists like Master Shortie and American’s Chiddy Bang have surpassed all expectation and won themselves the seal of approval from a fanbase that’s notoriously hard to please.
Giggs is another fan: “SB’s a good use of inspiration for artists who want to take their music further ‘cause he’s getting lots of views. It’s a good fucking venture.” Producer and MC Skepta, meanwhile, recently described SB as “the hardest working one-man army since Simon Cowell”.
As well as making money via Google ads, SB can make you a street music video for just a few hundred pounds – his offering for Skepta & Giggs’s “Look Out” has notched up over half a million views. He’s also just landed a job as researcher in factual development for production company Tiger Aspect (responsible for SecretDiaryof aCallGirl, Teachers and the rest).
“Next year I want to be seen as the youth broadcaster. I never thought I’d be featured in magazines, or film Talib Kweli (who also laid down an F64), work at the BBC on Jail Tales, produce music videos… I just want to be really successful and for SB.TV to be recognised on the same level as MTV.”