Little Mix on SBTV in 2012
Jamal was 15 when his mother Brenda bought him extra special Christmas present – a £200 video camera.
YouTube had just been launched and Jamal, who like most teenagers spent hours in his bedroom online, decided to upload some footage of foxes in his back garden. ‘I thought I was Steve Irwin,’ he said in an interview with MailOnline.
But when the footage got 1,000 views, he realized he was on to something.
He went out on to the estate and made some clips of his friends, most of whom were into grime – the music style now defined by stars such as Dizzee Rascal and Skepta.
‘Back then, there was no place to showcase our sort of spitting and rapping, so I thought, OK, I want to create that platform,’ he said. He took his own rap moniker ‘Smokey Barz’ to coin his brand name and SBTV was born.
Jamal was not an overnight success, and Brenda had no idea that her son would be hailed as a 21st-century pioneer.
From her vantage point, she had a boy who had struggled at school, was being threatened with expulsion from his college and needed a reality check about the world of work.
When he was 17, Brenda marched him into a branch of Topman and demanded that they give him a job.
‘It was so embarrassing. They were saying, ‘We don’t have any jobs going,’ but she wouldn’t take no for an answer,’ he says. ‘She said, ‘I don’t care, he’ll work for free, you have to take him on.’ And they agreed, probably because they wanted to get rid of her.’
Jamal began his Topman career as a shop assistant but at the same time started hanging out at the BBC, sneaking into raves and messaging record labels to beg for interview time with their artists. His big break came three years later when he secured his first non-grime interview with Kelly Rowland.
From that, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Trey Songz and countless other A-listers. In 2011, he was invited to 10 Downing Street to interview the prime minister after being appointed a Spirit of London Awards ambassador.
Jamal was still hands-on with both filming and editing at SBTV, and had big plans to expand the brand into sport, comedy and fashion.
Away from work his great passion was Chelsea FC.