Andre Harrell, a music executive and founder of Uptown Records, has died. He was 59.
A Harlem, New York native, Harrell started his music career as a hip-hop artist in the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. Despite early success, his rap career was short-lived, but his career in the music industry was taking off.
After a brief stint working at a radio station, in 1983, he met Russell Simmons and began working for the Def Jam Records founder. Within two years, Harrell became the vice president and later, the general manager of the label. Under Harrell’s leadership, he helped to launch the careers of Run-DMC and LL Cool J.
In 1986, Harrell founded his record label, Uptown Records, where he was instrumental in launching the careers of R&B and rap legends such as Mary J. Blige, Notorious B.I.G., Jodeci, Heavy D. & The Boyz, Al B. Sure, and Guy. Harrell would also welcome and mentor a young intern, Sean “Diddy” Combs. Their working relationship would span over 30 years.
In 1992, Harrell accepted a multimedia deal with MCA Music Entertainment Group, which involved film and television production. Harrell served as the executive producer for New York Undercover, and several films including Strictly Business and Honey.
In 1995, Harrell became the CEO of Motown Records, where he oversaw the careers of Queen Latifah, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross.
In 2013, Harrell became the Vice Chairman of REVOLT TV & Media, Diddy’s multimedia company.
The cause of Harrell’s death is yet unclear. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.