Andre Harrell was an American record executive, record producer, songwriter, and rapper. Harrell is best known as the founder of the record label, Uptown Records. He also served as the president and CEO of Motown Records. Andre Harrell died on May 8, 2020, and he was 59 years old.
Andre Harrell Biography
Andre Harrell was born in The Bronx, New York City and he grew up there. His father, Bernie, was a produce market employee in Hunts Point, his mother, Hattie, worked as a nurse’s aide.
Andre Harrell Age
Andre Harrell was born on September 26, 1960. At the time of death, he was 59 years of age.
Andre Harrell Education
Andre Harrell graduated from the Charles Evans Hughes High School in 1979. He went on to study at Baruch College, before transferring to Lehman College. He majored in communications and business management intending to become a newscaster. After three years in college, he went to work for a local radio station.
Andre Harrell Career
Andre Harrell began his career when he was still a teenager when they formed the duo group Dr. Jeckll & MR. Hyde which his high school friend Alonzo Brown. The group achieved success with major hit songs like “Genius Rap” (1981) and “AM/PM” (1984). Despite his early success in the music industry, he still proceeded with his education intending to become a newscaster. Harrell met Russell Simmons the founder of Def Jam Records in 1983. He went to work for Def Jam and within two years he became vice-president and general manager. After years of working at Def Jam, Harrell left and founded his own record label called Uptown Records.
Harrell is best known for having discovered and signed Sean “Puffy” Combs. He also signed Mary J Blige when in 1988, she recorded an impromptu cover of Anita Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture” at a recording booth in a local mall. Her then mother’s boyfriend at the time 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. She was signed in 1989 and she became the company’s youngest female and first solo artist.
He is also known to have launched the careers of Heavy D & The Boyz, Teddy Riley, and Jodeci. In 1995 as the CEO of Motown Records, he managed the careers of superstars such as Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.
Harrell was eager to sign Dwight Myers, better known as Heavy D, to Def Jam record, but couldn’t receive approval. However, Harrell believed so strongly in Heavy D’s talent, that he founded Uptown Records to release the rapper’s first album. In 1987, Heavy D’s freshman album, Living Large, went gold but in 1989, with hit songs such as “Somebody for Me,” and “We Got Our Own Thing,” his Big Tyme record went certified platinum.
When asked why he believed Uptown Records produced so many legendary artists, Harrell told the Grio that the key was mixing hip hop music with lifestyle.
Harrell also received a Cultural Excellence Award from the National Action Network and BET’s Culture Creators Award said, “Like Motown Records, it was a lifestyle label, where the artists not only made songs that resonated with the community but they also had fashion and attitude that people wanted to emulate. And to be that kind of cool that they saw in like a Mary J. Blige video, where she came out with the bubble coat, the Timbo boots, and the ram earrings.”
Andre Harrell Family
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Dad, I miss you so much. I love you so much. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but Destiny has a plan and I know you’ll never be too far away. You’re still my super hero, life coach, personal comedian, twin, yoga partner, wingman, and best friend. I hope you’re making the most of your time in heaven and please give my love to grandma and @ladykp , as I miss them dearly. I hope you’re reconnecting with old friends and making new ones— do not sleep on Bruce Lee! I can already visualize you up there on the dance floor with bad angel mamis. I hope you’re spreading love, giving world class compliments, sharing fantastic outfit advice and terrible memes. I also really hope you saw all the love the world was giving you on your way up. It gives me solace knowing how many lives you touched with your infinite wisdom and smile, boundless energy and immortal taste. Mom and I will miss you tremendously but we are so so proud of you dad. Thank you for showing that it’s all about leaving this earth better than how we find it. You definitely did. ❤️
Harrell is survived by his 25-year-old son, Gianni Harrell, whom Diddy refers to his godson. Gianni’s mother is an entertainment lawyer Wendy Credle.
Andre Harrell Death
The death of Harrell was announced by Dj D-Nice during his live Club Quarantine set on Instagram Friday night and online users were all shocked to learn of the music mogul’s passing. Sources confirmed that Harrell died suddenly and his ex-wife Wendy Credle indicated that he had been suffering from heart problems in the time leading up to his death.
Andre Harrell Tributes
Harrell received tributes from various artists such as Mariah Carley who wrote, “Why Andre My heart is breaking and I can’t stop crying. He was an amazing friend and I will miss him forever. ”
Why Andre 😢😢😢 My heart is breaking and I can't stop crying. He was an amazing friend and I will miss him forever. 😢
— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) May 9, 2020
Sean “Diddy” Combs also penned an emotional tribute to Harrell on Instagram. He wrote, “I’ve got to give myself the reality of this in doses. Because I can’t even handle this. I hope to God that you are all blessed to have someone in your life that loves you and believes in you like this man believe in me. I’m going to miss him so much. I can’t even imagine life without Dre. God bless @gianni @onealmcknight and the rest of the family. LOVE YOU FOREVER @andreharrell!!!!!!!
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I’ve got to give myself the reality of this in doses. Because I can’t even handle this. I hope to God that you are all blessed to have someone in your life that loves you and believes in you like this man believed in me.… I’m going to miss him so much. I can’t even imagine life without Dre. God bless @gianni, @onealmcknight and the rest of the family. 🖤✊🏿 LOVE YOU FOREVER @andreharrell !!!!!!!!!!
The Bad Boy Records founder also sent condolences to Harrell’s family, including his son Gianni and cousin O’Neal Mcknight.
Andre Harrell Legacy
Harrell’s talent was not only limited to music production. As a film producer, he was attached to 1991’s Strictly Business, Jessica Alba’s 2003 cult classic, Honey.
As for TV, he was a co-executive producer on the drama series, New York Undercover, which aired from 1995 to 1997. Recently, he served as producer on the talk show State of Culture.
Might have to watch Strictly Business tonight. RIP Andre Harrell.
— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) May 9, 2020
Harrell will be featured in the upcoming BET series ‘Uptown’ that will be based on Harrell’s legacy. Uptown is set to be released in 2020. BET Networks president Scott Mills said in a statement of the three-part scripted mini-series: “We are proud to bring the story of Uptown Records to life and celebrate the indelible imprint the label has made on the industry, transforming the sound, face, and business of hip-hop and R&B. We look forward to partnering with music industry titan Andre Harrell and powerhouse producer Jesse Collins on the Uptown miniseries, bringing viewers premium content that reflects and celebrates Black excellence.”
Harrell was also excited about the series where he wrote on Instagram, “I am thrilled to partner with BET Networks and Jesse Collins Entertainment to share my story, the rise of Uptown Records and successful black entrepreneurship, and the management and cultivation of some of the most iconic artists to come out of the late 80s and 90s hip hop, R&B, and soul music era.”