Wonderland.

JAMAL EDWARDS × BALLANTINE’S

Looking to tackle discrimination on the dancefloor, the multi-facet teams up with the whisky brand for its True Music campaign.

JAMAL EDWARDS
JAMAL EDWARDS

Jamal Edwards is a name known far and wide, mainly as the force behind the famed media platform SBTV. Awarding itself a rapidly growing following since its beginnings due to its dedication to celebrating the wonders of urban music, Jamal’s platform has not only become synonymous with spotlighting a diverse range of musical talents but also stands as a force that has propelled him to earn the coveted title of MBE. So, when whisky brand Ballantine’s looked to tackle the shocking statistic that claims, “1 in 3 music lovers globally have experienced discrimination,” through the awareness-raising Ballantine’s True Music campaign, which is a shining example of the brand’s dedication to furthering social justice, Jamal was naturally one of the few people they turned to.

When discussing his recent work with the brand on this anti-discrimination campaign, Jamal claimed, “Ballantine’s approached me, and I always go through anything like this with a fine-tooth comb to make sure I feel like it feels right. It really lined up with everything I’m about, with pushing for equality and helping to give people a leg up. Being given the opportunity to give a grant to a grassroots organisation is amazing, and the Ballantine’s True Music fund is the kind of thing that I know could have helped SBTV, and I now see the difference it could make. I actually randomly bumped into someone who works at the place I chose to award it to, and it was amazing to hear about the impact it will have. That’s the sort of campaign I want to get involved with and give back.”

The multi-facet sat down with Wonderland to discuss all things Ballantine’s True Music including who he has chosen to receive the £10,000 Ballantine’s True Music fund – which is dedicated to championing creatives in making strives and promoting equality within their respected fields – and the ways in which he thinks we can reset the dancefloor. Head below to enjoy our interview with Jamal Edwards MBE…

JAMAL EDWARDS x Ballantine’s True Music
JAMAL EDWARDS x Ballantine’s True Music

How did you first discover your passion for music?
My mum was a singer, and there was always music in my household when I was growing up. It was always playing in the car and has always been a huge part of my life since I was young. When I was a teenager, I started finding music that I really connected with. Obviously, for me, it was grime, rap, hip-hop, grime like Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in the Corner, Wiley’s Treddin’ on Thin Ice, Kano, 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying. I always used to watch Channel U or MTV Base, and I’d watch Trevor Nelson’s The Lick with my mum and auntie. It was around that time I realised that I loved music and knew I wanted to work within music.

And, looking back over your career, what is one thing you are most proud of when it comes to the success of SBTV?
I think the thing I’m proudest of is giving a platform to artists that weren’t being discovered and being part of their story. With SBTV, it was about jumping on a platform and being a really early adopter. I’m talking like around 2006 and eventually kicking down the doors, pushing forward and going on to create different strands for the channel like F64 and A64, which felt like real moments. One of my most recent proudest moments was having a mural made of me by the kids in Acton. It’s made up of recycled materials and came off the back of opening up new youth centres in the area I helped with. Honestly, it’s mad.

How did you first get involved with Ballantine’s new campaign, Resetting The Dancefloor?
Ballantine’s approached me, and I always go through anything like this with a fine-tooth comb to make sure I feel like it feels right. It really lined up with everything I’m about, with pushing for equality and helping to give people a leg up. Being given the opportunity to give a grant to a grassroots organisation is amazing, and the Ballantines True Music fund is the kind of thing that I know could have helped SBTV, and I now see the difference it could make. I actually randomly bumped into someone who works at the place I chose to award it to, and it was amazing to hear about the impact it will have. That’s the sort of campaign I want to get involved with and give back.

How does it make you feel knowing that 1 in 3 music lovers have faced discrimination on the dance floor?
It makes me feel like things need to change. It’s a crazy figure, and that’s why it’s important for things like this Resetting the Dancefloor campaign to happen. I was actually quite shocked at some of the statistics. Of course, I experienced some discrimination on the dancefloor years ago, but I recognise the position I’m in now; I don’t have some of the barriers I did back then. But whether it’s sexuality, gender, race or ableism, it’s important we shout about it and move things forward. If I’m in a rave and I feel like someone is being discriminated against, I will stand up for them and I think it’s important to use your platform in this way.

In what ways do you think we can improve in order to make the dance floor more welcoming?
I think education is the key to getting this out to a lot of people. I think campaigns like this and shining a light on these issues needs to continue. If reading those stats shocks people, for some of them, the next time they’re going to act a certain way, maybe they’ll think twice about it like, “hang on, is the way I’m being alright or am I part of a problem?” Getting this out to different audiences is important too, I have a different audience to the other contributors like to Honey Dijon, He.She.They or Chica Gang so it’s cool to see it reaching all these people.

What do you personally enjoy most about the club and dance floors?
I’ve made some of my best mates on the dance floor; when you get in there, you leave your worries at the door, and you’re just coming in to dance – there’s nothing like it. Now that I’m a DJ, I get to control the dance floor and enjoy it from a different perspective too, which I am loving. I live for it.

Are you optimistic about the future and the change that Ballantine’s could make?
I am optimistic, everyone needs to play their part, and things can always change. You know there’s the famous quote, “be the change you want to see in the world,” and I absolutely believe in that. I know first-hand the difference the grant fund will make, but bigger picture things can change and will change.

Who have you chosen to receive your £10,000 grant from the Ballantine’s True Music fund and why?
I have chosen No Signal Radio radio, and I chose them because they kept me and so many people entertained over lockdown and really built themselves over that period. They’re a good bunch of young black creatives and it’s authentic, I respect their brand and what they’re doing to give back to their community. I’m happy to be able to pay it forward, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it and how they will take their business to the next stage. It’s wholesome, it warms my heart seeing people do well.

When it comes to the future, what you are most looking forward to personally? Do you have any projects that you are excited to get started on?
I’m proud to share that the TV show Unapologetic has been re-commissioned by Channel 4 with Yinka Bokinni and Zeze Millz, which I’m really proud about. It’s so important to have these conversations in the mainstream media and that’s how we will affect change, and I couldn’t have imagined that it would actually be happening. I’m really excited about DJ-ing and I am working on an app and platform called 8Bars, which is going to be a real game-changer for artist discovery.

Head to ballantines.com to discover more…

JAMAL EDWARDS × BALLANTINE’S

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