It’s been widely reported that music mogul, Andre Harrell passed on Friday, May 8th in West Hollywood. Perhaps most famously known as the music executive who gave Sean “Diddy” Combs his first break, then subsequently firing him, Harrell contributed so much more to the music industry.
As one half of the the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde in the 80’s, Harrell brought his idea of artistry and culture when he launched Uptown Records in 1986. Uptown Records launched the careers of Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Al B. Sure!, Heavy D and the Boyz, Guy and others. And for a time it was one of the most important record labels in the country. Harrell’s vision of blending R&B soul with an edgy hip hop sound brought in millions of fans and effectively re-defined R&B as we know it.
Born in the Bronx on September 26, 1960, Harrell graduated from Charles Evans Hughes High School in 1978 and attended both Baruch College and Lehman College. When he and his high school friend, Alonzo Brown formed Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde they performed in suits and ties and released a couple of successful singles including “Genius Rap” in 1981 and “A.M./P.M” in 1984.
His famous intern
Harrell’s story, though poignant and definitive on its own, took an extraordinary twist when he hired Sean Combs as an intern in the early 1990’s. Combs worked in A&R and began to shape the sounds of Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. His influence increased their presence and hip hop credibility. Combs’ name and popularity was gaining and tensions appeared between he and Harrell resulting Harrell firing Puffy. The dismissal, one of the best things and worst things in the music business at the time, gave birth to Combs’ Bad Boy Records but also continued to grow the friendship between Combs and Harrell. At the time of his death, Harrell was vice chairman of Combs’ Revolt TV.
Harrell was a music visionary having worked for Motown Records, Def Jam and had his hand in delivering some of the most influential artists of the 90’s. He leaves behind a son, Gianni Harrell.
Photo of Harrell courtesy Andre Harrell Instagram.