Andre Harrell, Uptown Records founder who discovered Diddy, dies at 59
Andre Harrell, a veteran music executive known for founding the popular hip-hop label Uptown Records and a longtime associate of Sean "Diddy" Combs, has died. He was 59.
DJ D-Nice first announced the news during a Friday night installment of his Club Quarantine series on Instagram Live, and Combs' Revolt TV network, where Harrell served as vice chairman, confirmed his death. A cause of death has not yet been released.
“Everyone in the REVOLT family is devastated by the loss of our friend, mentor and Vice Chairman. Andre’s impact on Hip Hop, the culture and on all of us personally has been immeasurable and profound. May he Rest In Peace,” Revolt CEO Roma Khanna said in a statement.
Harrell, a New York native, got his start as a member of the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde before transitioning to the business side of music. He was hired by Russell Simmons' Def Jam Recordings in 1983, going on to serve as vice president and then general manager of the label.
In 1986, Harrell left Def Jam to found Uptown Records, which would eventually include such artists as Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G., and Jodeci in its roster. It was also at Uptown that Combs started out in the music business, beginning as an intern and helping to raise the label's profile.
Despite Combs' firing from Uptown in 1993, reportedly due to tensions between him and Harrell, the two remained friends and associates in subsequent years, with Harrell going on to serve as president of Combs' Bad Boy Records and, later, vice chairman of Revolt. He also briefly served as CEO of the legendary Motown Records label in the mid-1990s.
Many major figures in the music industry paid tribute to Harrell on social media following the news of his death. "Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving. He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture," John Legend tweeted.
"He gave you the best soundtracks of your life man and you didn’t even know it. We never gave him his flowers. He redefined the party!" Questlove wrote in a lengthy tribute on Instagram. "Def Jam was the artform. Bad Boy was the attitude. Death Row was the muscle. But without even knowing it? Uptown was ALWAYS the party."
Harrell is survived by his son Gianni Credle-Harrell, and Gianni's mother, entertainment lawyer Wendy Credle.