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ANDRE HARRELL,
1960-2020

Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, the former rapper whose label was key to shifts in R&B and hip-hop in the 1980s and early ‘90s, has died. He was 59.

DJ D-Nice announced Harrell’s death Friday during a session on Instagram Live. No other details have been announced, but numerous outlets have confirmed his death.

At Uptown, Harrell led the New Jack Swing movement with acts such as  Guy, Al B. Sure and Jodeci, plus crossover hip-hop with Heavy D and the Boyz. Uptown signed Mary J. Blige and Notorious B.I.G.; Harrell was also famous for promoting Sean “Puffy” Combs from intern to A&R executive.

Raised in the Bronx, Harrell and Alonzo Brown performed as the hip-hop duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  scoring a minor hit with "Genius Rap" in 1982. After meeting Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, Harrell switched to the business side, working his way up to VP and General Manager. He left in 1986 to start Uptown.

In the early ‘90s, Uptown moved to MCA where he developed film and television projects such as the series New York Undercover and the comedy film Strictly Business. By 1993,Uptown was the top urban label in the country

"My goal is to bring real black America—just as it is, not watered down — to people everywhere through music, through films, through everything we do," Harrell told the New York Times in 1992.

In 1995, he was named President and CEO of Motown, departing in 1997. In 2002, Harrell and entrepreneur Brett Wright  created the advertising, marketing and management firm Nu America Agency.

Beginning in 2013, Harrell served as vice chairman of Combs’ music network Revolt, and was a producer on its panel show State of the Culture. He co-founded and chaired the Revolt Music Conference as well.

Since December, Harrell has been working with BET to tell the Uptown Records story as a three-night scripted miniseries.

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