Andre Harrell, Founder of Uptown Records, Dies at 59

Andre Harrell, music mogul and founding father of influential R&B and hip-hop label Uptown Information, has died. Particulars of his dying will not be but recognized, however Harrell’s passing was first announced by DJ D-Nice on his Instagram Dwell early Saturday morning (Could 9), and sources have individually confirmed it to Billboard. He was 59.

This morning, REVOLT ceo Roma Khana launched a press release about Harrell, who served because the model’s vice-chairman: “We will verify the passing of Andre Harrell. Everybody within the REVOLT household is devastated by the lack of our good friend, mentor and Vice-Chairman. Andre’s influence on the tradition and on us has been immeasurable and profound. Could he Relaxation In Peace.”

Raised within the Bronx, New York, Harrell began a profession in music as half of the early-’80s hip-hop duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (with Alonzo Brown). The pair had a handful of minor hits on Billboard‘s Scorching R&B Songs chart — the largest being the No. 31-peaking, Tom Tom Club-sampling “Genius Rap” in 1982 — however Harrell quickly discovered different profession aspirations, significantly after assembly Def Jam information founder Russell Simmons.

Employed by Def Jam, Harrell rapidly labored his approach as much as vp and normal supervisor of the label, however left shortly thereafter to start out his personal New York Metropolis-based label: Uptown Information. The label rapidly rose to preeminence in late-’80s hip-hop and R&B with early hits from rap group Heavy D & The Boyz, R&B singer Al B. Positive! and New Jack Swing outfit Man — the latter of which helped deliver eventual super-producer Teddy Riley to stardom.

However Harrell’s biggest discovery on the label wasn’t a recording artist — no less than not but. Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, later to be often known as Diddy, began off at Uptown as an intern of Harrell’s, and ultimately labored there full-time as a expertise director, the place he helped develop ’90s R&B megastars like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci, even producing the favored “Hip-Hop Remix” of the latter’s 1992 hit “Come and Speak to Me.” (Harrell fired him from Uptown in 1993, resulting in Combs beginning the epochal Dangerous Boy label with good friend The Infamous B.I.G. as his marquee artist, however the relationship remained amicable: “I knew it was time for him to develop,” he explained to the Wall Avenue Journal in 2014.)

The ’90s noticed MCA, Uptown’s distribution accomplice, provide Harrell a multimedia deal, by way of which he govt produced the hit TV present New York Undercover (initially titled Uptown Undercover) and the 1991 movie comedy Strictly Enterprise. In 1993, the label additionally recorded the first-ever label showcase version of MTV’s enormously standard Unplugged sequence, that includes performances by Uptown artists Blige, Jodeci, Heavy D, Father MC and Christopher Williams — an episode that rapidly proved iconic for ’90s R&B, and produced one of many label’s largest chart hits with Jodeci’s cowl of Stevie Marvel’s “These days,” reaching No. four on the Billboard Scorching 100.

With the rise of hip-hop and the departure of Combs, Uptown started to slip from relevance within the again half of the ’90s, and Harrell left the label in 1995 to develop into CEO of Motown. However Harrell’s time on the legendary label was brief and largely unsuccessful, and he was fired in 1997. Harrell’s work in R&B continued effectively into the 21st century, as he was instrumental in kickstarting the profession of a younger Robin Thicke within the ’00s, and within the early ’10s launched Harrell Information, although the brand new label failed to provide hits or stars on the extent of his earlier ventures.

Harrell and Combs remained associates by way of the years, resulting in Harrell accepting a place as Vice Chairman of REVOLT, the music tv community and multi-platform model began by Combs in 2013. At Revolt, Harrell was liable for the creation of the REVOLT Music Conference, which started in 2014 and lasted for a half-decade earlier than being rebranded the REVOLT Hip-Hop Summit.

In December, it was announced that Harrell could be working with BET to deliver the Uptown Information story to life as a 2020 three-night scripted miniseries. “I’m thrilled to accomplice with BET Networks and Jesse Collins Leisure to share my story, the rise of Uptown Information and profitable black entrepreneurship, and the administration and cultivation of a few of the most iconic artists to return out of the late ’80s and ’90s hip-hop, R&B and soul music period,” stated Harrell to The Hollywood Reporter.

“We’re mourning the lack of a cultural icon, Andre Harrell, a chief architect of the fashionable hip-hop and R&B sound,” stated BET President Scott Mills in a press release following the exec’s passing. “Andre was tremendously enthusiastic about sharing the origin story of Uptown Information, and its pivotal position within the city music panorama. Along with his tragic passing, BET is dedicated to making sure that the Uptown restricted sequence occasion tells each the Uptown story and Andre’s story — that of the unbelievable music innovator, man and good friend to so many.”

“We mourn the lack of Andre Harrell, the founding father of Uptown Information, one among R&B and hip-hop’s most vital labels, the place he molded a definite sound and launched the careers of many seminal artists who proceed to affect music at the moment,” reads a press release from mother or father label Common Music Group about Harrell’s dying. “UMG and all the music trade have misplaced a really visionary member of our group and we lengthen our deepest condolences to his household and family members.”

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