At 59, Andre Harrell leaves behind a legacy that shaped popular culture

Music legend and Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, has passed away. Harrell is famously known for the creation of Uptown records and the success of many major artists including Mary J. Blige, Jodice, and for mentoring a young Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs.

Harrell got his start as one-half of the rap group Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde alongside Alonzo Brown. The duo had some minor Billboard hits, with their 1982 record, “Genius Rap”, peaking at No. 31 on Billboard. After life as an artist, Harrell went on to become vice president of Def Jam Record. He eventually left Def Jam to start his New York City based label, Uptown Records in the late 1980’s.

Uptown was home to numerous popular rap and R&B acts: Heavy D & the Boys, Al B. Sure, Guy, Father MC, Christopher Williams, and eventually music producer Teddy Riley. Combs interned at Uptown, working his way up to talent director, famously helping Blidge, Jodeci develop their talent. Harrell fired him in 1993 in an effort to help the bludgeoning record executive reach his full potential. Combs went on to found Bad Boy Records, and playing a pivotal role in shaping popular music in the 1990s through the 2000s.

Harrell closed the doors at Uptown Records in 1995, and took the reigns of Motown Records as CEO. He left the post in 1997. In the 2010’s Harrell launched Harrell Records, but it failed to produce the same levels of success he enjoyed at Uptown.

Harrell accepted the position of Vice Chairman for REVOLT, a music platform created by Sean Combs in 2013. He started the REVOLT Music Conference in 2014, which was later rechristened, REVOLT Hip-Hop Summit.

Harrell was also the executive produce of the 90s Malik Yoba/Michael DeLorenzo crime drama, New York Undercover, produced the Tommy Davidson/Halle Berry film, Strictly Business, and recorded the first Unplugged series for MTV. Before his death, he was working with BET on a mini-series about the history of Uptown Records and the “cultivation” of some the most iconic artists of the late 80’s and 90’s.

The news of Harrell’s passing was shared by DJ D-Nice as he hosted his Instagram Live “Quarantine set” early Saturday morning, May 9.

Though his death is unexpected, Harrell had a history of heart trouble, and underwent heart surgery in 2009.

Andre Harrell was 59.

For The Record: Andre Harrell in Pictures

group Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Andre Harrell, left, and Alonzo Brown) on the cover of the duo’s 1985 album, The Champagne Of Rap, released on Profile Records.
DJ Cassidy, Andre Harrell and Robin Thicke
DJ Cassidy, Andre Harrell and Robin Thicke pose for pictures at Thicke’s birthday party, New York City, March 8, 2012. (Credit: Jerritt Clark)
Andre Harrell at Uptown
Andre Harrell (seated, center) poses with members of his music label, Uptown Records: Mary J. Blige, Father MC, Heavy D and the Boys, Jodeci, Christopher Williams, Sean Combs.
Teddy Riley, with Andre Harrell
Teddy Riley and Andre Harrell reunite in this undated photo. Riley, who was signed to Harrell’s Uptown Records, credits Harrell as a mentor.
Mary J. Blige, flanked by Andre Harrell and Sean Combs, celebrates her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, CA on January 11, 2018. (Credit: Getty Images)
Andre Harrell and Dr. Dre at the premiere of HBO’s “The Defiant Ones” on June 22, 2017, Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Andre Harrell at Def Jam
Andre Harrell played a big role in the early success of Def Jam Records. Pictured (top left) with members of the label’s roster, including LL Cool J and Jam Master J, as well as Whodini and Def Jam founder, Russell Simmons. (Credit: Sham Brown)
Martin Lawrence, Andre Harrell, Al B. Sure
Martin Lawrence, Andre Harrell, Al B. Sure. (Credit: Lynn Goldsmith)
Andre Harrell, with son, Gianni Harrell
Andre Harrell, with his son, Gianni Harrell, August 17, 2017. (Credit: Johnny Nunez)
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