Andre Harrell Dies: Uptown Records Founder, Who Gave Diddy His Start, Was 59

Andre Harrell (Credit: Revolt)

Andre Harrell, who founded Uptown Records and discovered some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, has died. He was 59.

Harrell had heart problems and passed away Thursday night from heart failure at his home in West Hollywood, Calif, his former wife, Wendy Credle, told the New York Times

He was an executive at the Revolt music channel, founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. The network confirmed his death in a statement Saturday. “Everyone in the Revolt family is devastated by the loss of our friend, mentor and Vice-Chairman. Andre’s impact on Hip Hop and the culture and on us has been immeasurable and profound. May he Rest In Peace,” the statement said.

Revolt also posted a tribute on Twitter, writing: “The world lost an icon.”

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Born in Harlem, New York in 1960, Harrell studied communications and business management at Lehman College in the Bronx. After three years, he dropped out and started a job at a local radio station.

His music career started as half of the hip-hop duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He decided to work behind the scenes when he was hired by Russell Simmons at Def Jam Records. Within two years, Harrell became vice president and general manager of the label.

He left in 1986 to start his own label, Uptown Records. He signed classic R&B and hip-hop artists, including Al B. Sure, Guy which included legendary producer Teddy Riley, and the late Heavy D.

Harrell hired Combs as an intern. Combs moved up to become a talent manager for the label and developed the careers of Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. Combs, then known as “Puff Daddy,” went on to found Bad Boy Records.

Two decades later, Harrell and Combs teamed up to start Revolt. Harrell also appeared on several episodes with Combs on his MTV reality series Making The Band.

As news of Harrell’s death spread, condolences poured in across social media.

“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 tweeted.

Added Russell Simmons on Instagram, “Heartbreaking – No words, my best friend. Always compassionate, good-hearted, full of love and.. what a beautiful legacy he leaves in this world… All the inspiration, direction and support he gave to so many. So many can say they are successful because Andre Harrell gave them their start.”

“RIP Andre Harrell. Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving. He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture,”John Legend tweeted.

Added Michelle Williams on Twitter, “Andre, you were a MAJOR part of shaping R and B/Hip Hop. You literally signed artists who turned into legends. They are blueprints. We will forever honor your IMPRINT in music history!!!”