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Uptown Records Founder Andre Harrell Dies At 59

Source: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Getty

We lost a legend.


Andre Harrell, the legendary music executive and founder of Uptown Records, passed away at the age of 59. The sad news was revealed by DJ D-Nice during #ClubQuarantine and a post on his page early Saturday (May.9) morning. Variety and other news outlets were able to confirm the news this morning. No details have revealed as to the cause of his death.

Harrell, a Bronx native’s foray into the music world began as one of half of the early-’80s hip-hop duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (with Alonzo Brown. The pair saw some success thanks to some small hits, the biggest one being “Genius Rap,” which peaked at no.31 on Billboard‘s Hot R&B Songs chart.

But Harrell realized he wanted to do more in the music industry after a chance meeting with Def Jam records founder Russell Simmons. Harrell was eventually hired by Simmons and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming vice president and general manager during his time at the iconic label. He would subsequently move on to start his own record label, Uptown Records that gave us iconic music acts like Heavy D & The Boyz, R&B singer Al B. Sure!, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, and Guy.

His biggest discovery, which he didn’t know at the time, would be one Sean “Diddy” Combs. Before launching the Bad Boy Records, Combs started out in the industry as Harrell’s intern before becoming a  full-time as a talent director and grooming  ’90s R&B megastars like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. During his tenure at Uptown, Combs invented the “Hip-Hop Remix” with Jodeci’s 1992 hit “Come And Talk To Me.” Harrell fired Combs from Uptown Records in 1993, and the rest is history. The two moguls split was amicable, and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Harrell explained, “I knew it was time for him to grow,” speaking on his decision to fire Combs.

Harrell didn’t stop at music, he also got into television and film as well. Thanks to a multimedia deal he was offered through MCA, Uptown’s distribution partner, he became executive producer of the hit television show New York Undercover and  1991 film comedy Strictly Business.

Uptown Records eventually fell from prominence following Diddy’s departure, and Harrell would move on to become the CEO of Motown in 1995. He was ultimately fired in 1997 from the legendary label. Harrell would land on his feet once again and reunite with his friend Combs becoming the Vice Chairman of REVOLT, the music television network, and multi-platform brand that Combs started in 2013. Harrell would go on to create the REVOLT Music Conference in 2014, which was later rebranded the REVOLT Hip-Hop Summit.

Harrell’s next move was bringing the story of Uptown Records to life in the form of a 2020 three-night scripted miniseries. As you can imagine, Harrell’s passing has rocked the music world. You can peep reactions in the gallery below.

Rest In Power Andre Harrell

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Getty