The Hip-Hop community and music world at large are gathered in mourning the loss of Uptown Records founder and music executive, Andre Harrell. The news came on Friday (May 8) but the cause of his passing has yet to be shared.
During an Instagram Live session, DJ D-Dnice informed the viewing public of the news, which was later confirmed to be true by insiders. The reports of Harrell’s passing were especially jarring considering the coronavirus pandemic but thus far it hasn’t been revealed as a possible cause of death.
Up until a day ago, Harrell was active on his social media account, posting a meme regarding how the COVID-19 situation has all but shut down the year’s activities. He was also in support of Ahmaud Arbery and was apparently active on social media.
Harrell began his career as a rapper in the duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, formed with his high school classmate, Alonzo Brown. The pair released a series of records that made noise in the scene but Harrell would go on to discover a knack for the business side of music.
The Harlem native crossed paths with Russell Simmons in the early 1980s, joining Def Jam Records and eventually becoming an executive for the label. In 1986, Harrell went off on his own to found Uptown Records, which went on to sign the likes of Mary J. Blige, Heavy D and The Boyz, Al Be Sure!, Jodeci, Guy, and more. Harrell is also credited with discovering Sean “Diddy” Combs, who became a powerful executive in his own right.
Paying it forward, Combs named Harrell as the vice-chairman of his REVOLT entertainment brand and there were plans of a docuseries detailing the rise of Uptown Records slated for release this year.
We’ve collected some of the kind words shared in honor of Harrell across social media, which can be viewed below.
Andre Harrell was 59. May he rest powerfully in peace.
This man was a walking inspiration.He had impeccable vision ... He was pure class 🥂... his energy,confidence and swag was contagious.He kept it a thousand and he gave us some of the greatest artist ever ... I respected him immensely. #RIPAndreHarrell 👑 🙏🏿🖤👊🏾💯 pic.twitter.com/S2ztf7ufcv— MC HAMMER (@MCHammer) May 9, 2020
Andre Harrell, music mogul, hip-hop pioneer & founder of Uptown Records, has passed away at 59-years-old 💔 Circumstances surrounding his passing are unclear at this time. Our prayers go out to his family, friends & fans. May his legacy continue to live on 🙏🏾 #RIPAndreHarrell pic.twitter.com/nqZBo8rxzS— Dish Nation (@DishNation) May 9, 2020
Talk about doing it for the culture. Andre Harrell devoted his whole life to building platforms for black talent. Without his vision there would be no Uptown Records, Diddy, Jodeci, Mary J, New York Undercover (yes, the tv show)...I could go on. What a legend 🙏🏾 #RIPAndreHarrell pic.twitter.com/E9WoFnvCZR— WellTheTruthIs (@truth_well) May 9, 2020
If you are interested in reading about Andre Harrell's origin story, I explore it in chapter two of "The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop." #RIPAndreHarrell— Dan Charnas (@dancharnas) May 9, 2020
So saddened to awaken to the loss of Andre Harrell this morning. He was an innvovator, a visionary, a pioneer and a legend who forever changed the music industry. He paved the way for so many artists. Your legacy will live on. #RIPAndreHarrell #GoneTooSoon https://t.co/OCpVdcwKje— Donnie Simpson (@DonnieSimpson) May 9, 2020
Rest In Peace to the legendary Andre Harrell. Most known as founder of Uptown Records, he was responsible for the careers of Diddy, Jodeci Mary J. Blige & more. His countless contributions to the culture could never be forgotten! #RIPAndreHarrell pic.twitter.com/sILfxRSjP9— i-10 HipHop Review (@RoyalRougeMedia) May 9, 2020
Andre Harrell — visionary, leader, cultural architect, mogul and so much more. You changed our lives forever through music, representation, and visibility, and for that we thank you. Rest peacefully and powerfully, King. 🙏🏾🕊❤️ #RIPAndreHarrell pic.twitter.com/vRH6uo5cUs— Wondaland (@wondaland) May 9, 2020
There were so many levels to Andre Harrell. He was also a tv producer and produced one of my favorite movies and tv shows the film Strictly Business and New York Undercover. 😢#RIPAndreHarrell pic.twitter.com/VIQpRzzzap— 🟣Maggie Ntim🗽🏀⚽️⚾️🎾🏈🏎⛳️ (@AgentMaggieNtim) May 9, 2020
Oh man...Andre Harrell was a giant in the music industry. Def Jam, Uptown, Motown, Revolt, Diddy, Mary J Blige, Jodeci, the list goes on. 59 years old...damn! #RIPAndreHarrell— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) May 9, 2020
I was stunned to wake up to the news of the passing of music mogul, @iamAndreHarrell. We were just speaking on Tuesday of getting the hip hop community organized to support the Ahmaud Arbery Justice efforts. Andre never stopped thinking, planning, and innovating. #RIPAndreHarrell pic.twitter.com/56GiwDFhKj— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) May 9, 2020
I've known Diddy ever since he was an ambitious young man who ended up working with Andre Harrell at #UptownRecords, during the days of Heavy D and a then unknown Mary J. Blige. Dre was his friend & mentor. I know that he's gutted by news of his sudden passing.#RIPAndreHarrell— Elgin Charles (@ElginCharles) May 9, 2020
😳 DNice just announced that Andre Harrell died. I’m stunned.— ashley yates (@brownblaze) May 9, 2020
What a loss. 😔
We lost a titan today. A true titan of Black music. Rest in power, Mr. Harrell. pic.twitter.com/9OHhH7X1v8
“For the culture” is used very loosely nowadays. Andre Harrell was that and then some. Thank you. 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/k4CSSeBsLZ— ᴅᴏʟʟᴀʀ (@callmedollar) May 9, 2020