Music executive & Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell passes away at 59
This past Thursday, music executive Andre Harrell passed away in his West Hollywood, California home due to heart failure. He was 59.
Born in Harlem on Sep. 26, 1960 and raised in the Bronx, Mr. Harrell founded the super influential Uptown Records, which bridged the gap between hip-hop and R&B, and helped shape the careers of some of urban music’s biggest artists. Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Guy, Al. B. Sure!, Heavy D & the Boyz, and Father MC are just some of the names associated with him.
Harrell is also credited with discovering Sean “Diddy” aka “Puffy” Combs and giving him his first big break in the music industry. Puffy served as an Uptown intern in the early 90’s but quickly climbed the ranks and ended up doing A&R work for the label before being fired by Harrell in 1993. However, the pair eventually reconciled, with Harrell serving as president of Diddy’s Bad Boy Records for several years, and vice chairman of Diddy’s Revolt TV at the time of his death. He’s often referred to as the man who turned Diddy into the mogul he is today.
And before he was helping shape the careers of other artists, he found his own success as a rapper. In the early 80’s, Harrell went by Dr. Jeckyll and was one half of the duo Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. The group had some notable singles including “Genius Rap” (1981) and “A.M./P.M” (1984) and released one album in 1985, The Champagne of Rap.
Along with his label work, Harrell was a producer of several films including Strictly Business and Honey, and executive producer of the cult classic New York Undercover.
According to the NY Times, he also “helped found an ad agency, NuAmerica”. Harrell had plenty of experience with sales, after initially getting his start as an account executive selling adds for two New York radio stations in the early 80’s.
The Times also reported that BET reported last year that they had teamed up with Harrell for a mini-series about Uptown Records. Harrell was also a producer on the 2018-2019 show State of the Culture, hosted by Joe Budden, Remy Ma, Jinx and Eboni K. Williams.
And all of that really only touches on his accomplished and influential career.
Our condolences to Mr. Harrell’s family and friends.
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