Andre Harrell, a veteran record executive and founder of the influential hip-hop label Uptown Records, has died at the age of 59. His death was first announced on DJ D-Nice’s daily Instagram Live party and later confirmed by the CEO of the music-television network Revolt, where Harrell served as vice-chairman. “Andre’s impact on the culture and on us has been immeasurable and profound,” the statement read. “May he rest in peace.” Harrell’s wife told the New York Times that the cause of death was heart failure, which he had been suffering from “for some time.” Following a moderately successful career in the early 1980s with the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Harrell transitioned to his second act as a record executive and mogul after being hired by Russell Simmons at Def Jam, rising to the ranks of vice-president and general manager.
By the end of the decade, he left to start his own New York City–based label, Uptown Records, which became one of the most prominent incubators for hip hip and R&B music. Harrell’s greatest discovery, Diddy, began as his intern at Uptown before founding Bad Boy Entertainment. He also signed and mentored artists such as Mary J. Blige, Al B. Sure!, and Jodeci.
“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,” he once told the Los Angeles Times. In 1995, Harrell left his label to run Motown Records as president and CEO, which ended with his firing two years later. He has remained a significant presence in black entertainment ever since, and was most recently working on an Uptown series for BET.