*Sadly, we have to report the passing of Andre Harrell, founder of influential R&B and hip-hop label Uptown Records.
As of this posting, the official details surrounding his death are not yet known. However, his passing was first announced by DJ D-Nice on his Instagram Live early Saturday morning (05-09). Subsequently, the news was confirmed through separate sources by Billboard. He was 59.
Harrell’s career in the music industry started out as being one-half of the early-’80s hip-hop duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (with Alonzo Brown). They really didn’t much on the charts, but Harrell’s whole situation chan he’d when he met Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, who hired him. Obviously, being a future sho caller like Simmons was his calling. At Def Jam he quickly assumed the title of VP and general manager of the label.
It didn’t take long before he decided to strike out on his own and formed Uptown Records based in New York City, of course. The label didn’t mess around. It quickly made a name for itself with early ’80s hip-hop and R&B hits from rap group Heavy D & The Boyz, R&B singer Al B. Sure! and New Jack Swing outfit Guy which helped bring super-producer Teddy Riley to stardom.
And then there’s the one and only Mary J. Blige who Harrell signed to the label as a teenager in the late 80s. It’s worth noting, however, that her career didn’t take off until the early 90s with help from Harrell’s enterprising former intern, Sean “Puffy” Combs, who was quickly elevated to an A&R position at Uptown. But that’s a whole other story as they say.
As Variety notes, Harrell and Combs remained longtime friends and business associates and Harrell served as vice chairman of Revolt, Combs’ multi-platform music network, and a producer on its panel show “State of the Culture.” He also appears in Diddy’s 2017 documentary “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story” and, according to IMDB, had been working on a TV miniseries about Uptown that was in the development phase at BET. The three-part miniseries titled “Uptown” had Harrell on board as executive producer and was scheduled to hit the airwaves in 2020.