NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — Andre Harrell, the founder of Uptown Records who helped bring hip-hop and R&B to the mainstream in the late 1980s and 1990s, has died. He was 59.
His death was confirmed by Revolt, a multi-platform music service where he had most recently served as Vice Chairman. A cause of death was not disclosed, but Harrell’s ex-wife told the New York Times that he had been suffering from a heart condition.
“The REVOLT family has lost a leader and mentor in music icon and pioneer Andre Harrell. On Friday (May 8), we learned that our vice chairman’s groundbreaking life was cut short at the age of 59. Though we aren’t privy to many of the details surrounding his sudden passing at the moment, it is still very surreal that he is now gone,” a statement from the company said.
A native of the Bronx, Harrell launched a career in hip-hop in 1981 as one half of the duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, who scored a hit that year with “Genius Rap.”
However, Harrell quickly transitioned to the industry side of the recording business after meeting Def Jam Records’ Russell Simmons. In 1983, he landed a role as vice president and later served as general manager at the agency.
In 1987, he founded Uptown Records and the label quickly became a nexus for the burgeoning New Jack sound with a roster that included early progenitors such as Guy, Al B.Sure!, and Heavy D.
In 1988, Harrell discovered and signed Sean “Puffy” Combs and the following year, he signed Mary. J. Blige after hearing a demo recorded at a shopping mall.
Harrell also struck a label contract with MCA Music, which he later expanded into multimedia, including film and television with projects that included the film “Strictly Business” as well as the Fox police procedural “New York Undercover.”
In 1995, Harrell was named CEO of Motown Records and remained there until 1997 and hosted a radio show 98.7 Kiss FM.
In 2017, Harrell was named Vice Chairman of Revolt, Diddy’s multi-platform music network Revolt TV. On October 17, 2014 and played a key role in launching the the company’s Revolt Music Conference in Miami.
“While many people say that they spotlight black excellence to do it “for the culture,” Harrell truly lived and breathed that. It’s only right that we, as a culture, and his REVOLT family do the same for him,” Revolt said.