Andre Harrell dies: Mariah Carey, John Legend, Kamala Harris mourn Uptown Records founder

Undated photo of Andre Harrell who died Friday at the age of 59.

Devotees described him as impeccable, visionary and “pure class.” For some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Records, personified the best of the people making moves behind-the-scenes in music.

Harrell died Friday at the age 59, the Associated Press reported. He built the careers of artists including Jodeci and Mary J. Blige and was also known as the executive who gave Sean Combs his first break.

Mary J. Blige Is Honored With A Star On The Hollywood Walk of Fame
Andre Harrell, Mary J. Blige, and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs at Mary J. Blige star ceremony in 2018 in Hollywood, California.
(Rich Polk/Getty Images)

Artists who became starts in the golden 1990s of era of slick, mainstreaming R&B offered gratitude and condolences. “Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving,” wrote John Legend on Twitter. “He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture.” Mariah Carey tweeted an emotional and emoji-filled farewell: “My heart is breaking.”


Missy Elliott described meeting Harrell in the 1990s and how he always encouraged her to write music. “Your name sits high,” she tweeted. “Every time you saw me you told me to keep writing!”

Others followed suit, many with candid photographs of backstage moments with the producer:

“You were the beginning for so many and a genuine positive energy through it all,” Usher wrote on Instagram. “I salute you KING!!”

Andre Harrell, the Uptown Records founder who shaped the sound of hip-hop and R&B in the late ’80s and ’90s, has died at 59.

“The dude that was always humbly [calling] the shots with all the good ideas,” said Erykah Badu. “I salute one of the smartest visionaries of the culture of our time.”

“INSPIRING is not a word to simply throw around. He was a true pioneer and visionary my heart goes out to his family today especially his son,” wrote filmmaker Robert Townsend.

“He had impeccable vision ... He was pure class,” posted rapper MC Hammer. “His energy, confidence and swag [were] contagious.”

Sen. Kamala Harris and Rev. Al Sharpton paid their respects to Harrell on Twitter, while rapper Swizz Beats posted multiple remembrances of him on Instagram. Questlove’s Instagram features an extended post about a man who “redefined the party!”


Harrell started his career at Def Jam Records under co-founder Russell Simmons. On Saturday, Simmons called Harrell a “best friend,” and praised him for a sense of selflessness in an industry not always known for its kindness.

“So many can say they are successful because Andre Harrell gave them their start,” Simmons wrote. “He was so beloved because he made his living uplifting others.”


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Dude. #AndreHarrell man. He gave you the best soundtracks of your life man and you didn’t even know it. We never gave him his flowers. He redefined the party! Def Jam was the artform. Bad Boy was the attitude Death Row was the muscle But without even knowing it? Uptown was ALWAYS the party. I’m sitting here going through my crates STUNNED at the amount of six degree to Andre records I’ve spun weekly on a regular basis for the last 35 years yo. The is a staggering loss. We never gave Andre Harrell his flowers. Name em: Al B Sure/Heavy D & The Boyz/Guy/. I mean mentoring Diddy alone brings in Jodeci/BIG/Mary J/Father MC/Christopher Williams—-and even in those names the success with THOSE artists come Missy/Timb/Neptune’s But let’s not stop there: first time we really paid attention to Halle Berry was in a Harrell film called Strictly Business Let’s throw “Candy Rain” in there or Lil Shawn’s “I Made Love”—-I may be dating myself but man Mgruff’s “Before We Start” got MUCH play round my way. Jeff Redd (who brought Blidge to the label) had a banger with “You Called And Told Me”—-“Touch It” from Monifah STILL bangs to this day. & back to Diddy, I’m absolutely w/o a doubt certain that he feels his success is also Harrell’s success so in a round about way there is no Bad Boy w/o Harrell. (Lemme also remember Daryl Chill Mitchell’s “Hip Hop’s Here To Stay” another classic uptown jawn. Horace Brown too..... Too Many Classics Let’s not forget NY Undercover & all the clever music moments in each ep. We never gave him his flowers. This isn’t even half of his achievements nor does this even bring to light the people’s lives he changed or his loved ones left behind. He literally introduced a new sound to the world (the first new jack swing projects were on Uptown)—-wait hold that——his label changed music TWICE because hip hop soul’s music picked up where New Jack left off and on the same label. Such a short time to paradigm shift music TWICE!!!!!!!! Damn man. We never gave him his flowers man. 😣

A post shared by Questlove Froman, (@questlove) on



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