Friday night, the music world lost a pivotal figure at a rather young age: Andre Harell, founder of Uptown Records, has died at the age of 59. Harrell is also credited with giving Diddy his first job in the music business. The news was revealed during DJ D-Nice’s weekly Club Quarantine livestream on Instagram. According to Variety, the cause of Harrell’s death has yet to be confirmed.
In addition to his executive position at Uptown Records, Harrell also represented one-half of the hip-hop duo, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, who earned a few minor hits, including “Genius Rap”. After some time as Vice President and GM at Def Jam, Harrell would venture out on his own to start Uptown Records in 1986. There, he helped to develop and grow the R&B style entitled New Jack Swing, thanks to acts like Guy (which featured legendary producer Teddy Riley) and Jodeci.
Harrell also worked in the hip-hop sector, signing names like Heavy D and the Boyz and Father MC. He is also credited with discovering Mary J. Blige in the ’80s, but her career would not take off until the ’90s with help from Diddy, who was then the A&R at Uptown. Diddy’s A&R position would eventually lead to him discovering Notorious B.I.G.; however, he would be infamously fired in 1993 and would later sign Notorious B.I.G. to his own label, Bad Boy Records, which he started that same year.
Diddy and Harrell would eventually reunite as business partners, with Harrell serving as the Vice Chairman of Diddy’s music network, Revolt, as well as a producer on Revolt’s show, State Of The Culture. Harrell also served as the executive producer for a three-part miniseries that was focused on the history of Uptown. The miniseries is expected to arrive at some point this year.