HOLLYWOOD – Andre Harrell, the founder of Uptown Records best known as the man who turned Sean “Diddy” Combs into a music mogul, died Fried at the age of 59.
Harrell’s life story and talent lineup is legendary, also once serving as the president/CEO of Motown Records.
According to Wikipedia, Harrell was born in The Bronx, New York on September 26, 1960, and grew up there. His father, Bernie, was a produce market employee in Hunts Point; his mother, Hattie, worked as a nurse’s aide.
When he was a teenager, Harrell and Alonzo Brown, his high school friend, formed a rap/ hip-hop duo named Dr. Jekyll (Harrell) and Mr. Hyde (Brown). The group achieved success with three major hit songs “Genius Rap,” “Fast Life,” and “AM/PM.” Despite this early success in the music industry, Harrell had other career intentions.
Harrell attended Lehman College in Bronx, where he majored in communications and business management. He initially wanted to become a newscaster, but after three years, he dropped out of college and went to work for a local radio station.
In 1983, Harrell met Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records. He went to work for Def Jam and within two years became vice-president and general manager. After a few years working at Def Jam, Harrell left and founded his own label, Uptown Records.
Harrell is credited with having discovered and signing Sean “Puffy” Combs. In 1988, Mary J. Blige recorded an impromptu cover of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture” at a recording booth in a local mall. Her mother’s boyfriend at the time later played the cassette for Jeff Redd, a recording artist and A&R runner for Uptown Records. Redd sent it to Harrell, who met with Blige. In 1989, she was signed to the label, and became the company’s youngest and first female solo artist.
In 1988, Harrell was offered a label deal MCA Music Entertainment Group. After he had multiple successful releases, in 1992, MCA offered Harrell a multimedia deal, which involved film and television productions. They developed FOX’s hit police drama series, “New York Undercover,” which aired from 1994-1998.
Harrell renamed Uptown Records as Uptown Enterprises, and its records were featured in productions for Universal Pictures and Universal Television. In 1994, Harrell had a son (Gianni Credle-Harrell) with Wendy Credle, a music attorney.
In 1995, Harrell was appointed CEO of Motown Records. After working with world famous artists (Bradley Theodore) on the branding of his Pet project, Harrell hosted Champagne & Bubbles on Sunday nights from 6-9 p.m. on Emmis Urban AC WRKS (98.7 Kiss FM) New York. Harrell was the CEO of Harrell Records, which was distributed through Atlantic Records. He partnered with budding Atlanta-based production company L7 Entertainment for the release of their new artists, Hamilton Park and Netta Brielle.
Harrell was the Vice Chairman of Revolt, Diddy’s multi-platform music network. On October 17, 2014, he was instrumental in launching the Revolt Music Conference in Miami, Florida, at the Fountainbleau Hotel. The event was attended by entertainment music heavy-hitters, including Guy Oseary, Russell Simmons and L.A. Reid.
Harrell died at his home in West Hollywood, California. News of his shocking death was first announced on Instagram by legendary DJ “D-Nice.” According to his ex-wife, he had been suffering from heart problems in the time leading up to his death.