Andre Harrell, the music executive who founded the influential label Uptown Records and helped make Diddy a star, has died. His ex-wife Wendy Credle tells The New York Times that he had had heart problems for a while and the cause of death was heart failure. The news was first announced by DJ D-Nice during his popular Club Quarantine series and later confirmed by Revolt, where Harrell served as vice chairman. He was 59.
Born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Harrell first entered the music industry as a performer. He formed the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde in high school with his friend Alonzo Brown; they released several successful singles, including the “Genius Of Love”-sampling “Genius Rap.” In 1983, while working for a local radio station, Harrell met Def Jam founder Russell Simmons and joined his Rush Management company, eventually becoming vice president and general manager.
Harrell started his own label, Uptown Records, in 1986. There, he discovered and signed numerous hip-hop and R&B acts including Teddy Riley’s new jack swing trio Guy, Al. B. Sure!, and Heavy D & The Boyz. In the early ’90s, he hired an intern named Sean Combs, who quickly became an indispensable A&R man for the label, developing Mary J. Blige and Jodeci and signing the Notorious B.I.G.
In 1993, Harrell fired Sean Combs from the company. Combs, who would later become known as Puff Daddy and Diddy, founded his own Bad Boy Records and took Biggie along with him. Meanwhile, Harrell had signed a $50 million multimedia deal with MCA to form a new company, Uptown Entertainment, branching into film and television production for projects like Strictly Business and New York Undercover.
In the mid-’90s, Harrell briefly became CEO of the legendary Motown Records. And despite their split, he remained close with Diddy, working at Bad Boy and later Diddy’s Revolt TV. Before his passing, he had been working with BET as a producer on a miniseries based on the rise of Uptown Records and its most iconic artists. He is survived by one son, Gianni Credle-Harrell, as well as his brother Greg and his father.
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