Andre Harell, a legacy music executive who founded Uptown Records has died. He was 59. The cause of death is undetermined at the moment. DJ Nice broke the news on his IG Live for his popular Club Quarantine series.
A native of New York, Harrell started his career in music as an artist, one-half of the early rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, whose single “Genius Rap” was a minor hit in 1981. In 1983 Harrell teamed with Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records, and had one of his early experiences in the business working as a vice president and later GM of the label.
He left to start his own record company, Uptown Records, in 1986. Stylish, sophisticated and fashion-forward, the label played a key role in the development of the New Jack Swing style of R&B, courtesy of acts like Guy Al B. Sure and Jodeci, as well as crossover hip-hop via Heavy D and the Boyz and Father MC. Harrell also signed the teenage Mary J. Blige in the late ’80s, though her career at the label didn’t fully 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.
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.”
RIP Andre Harrell