Andre Harrell, Hip Hop and R&B Icon, Founder of Uptown Records Has Died at 59

Andre Harrell.
Andre Harrell. Photo: Yevette Renee

May 8, 2020

New York native, music trailblazer, Andre O’Neal Harrell, passed away on May 7, 2020 in West Hollywood, CA.

Harrell, a man that knew the music business from front and back as an Artist in the music duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and as an industry executive when he worked with Russell Simmons at Def Jam Records as its Vice President and general manager.

Harrell eventually left Def Jam to start his own music label, Uptown Records, in 1986. It is at Uptown where Harrel hired Sean “Diddy” Combs as an intern. Not only did this hiring lead to the start of Diddy’s mega successful career but also to the long-lasting careers of Mary J. Blige, the first successful solo Uptown artist, Heavy D and the Boys, The Lost Boyz, Anthony Hamilton, Al B. Sure, Jodeci, the Notorious B.I.G., Teddy Riley and Guy. He launched the career of Robin Thicke while at Nu America Records. He executive produced Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s mega hit song “Blurred Lines.”

His career path includes the 1995 position as CEO and president of Motown and founder of the Nu America advertising agency. Harrell came full circle in his relationship with Diddy when he became Vice Chairman of Diddy’s Revolt TV and Media.

He also experienced success in the TV and Film industry. He created and produced the highly successful tv show “New York Undercover” starring Malik Yoba and gave Halle Barry her first lead role in Strictly Business and the same is true for Jessica Alba in Honey.

Andre Harrell was a major force in the early days of Hip Hop and was able to seamlessly merge Hip Hop with R&B, a style of music that continues to endure.

He leaves his only son, Gianni.