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Diddy’s Longtime Mentor Andre Harrell Has Died At 59 + Mariah Carey, Usher, Russell Simmons, Erykah Badu + More React

Written By Rosario Harper

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Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell has reportedly died. New reports claim the music executive passed away this week at the age of 59.

R.I.P. Harrell

According to reports, the news started to spread last night courtesy of producer DJ D-Nice. Media outlets have since confirmed the tragic news.

Andre Harrell, a veteran music executive best known as the founder of Uptown Records, where Sean “Puffy” Combs got his start in the business, who later went on to head Motown Records, has died. He was 59. The cause of death is as yet unclear. DJ D-Nice revealed the sad news while spinning on Instagram Live for his popular Club Quarantine series Friday night (May 8). Variety has yet to receive official word though sources have confirmed Harrell’s passing. (Variety)

The Music Biz Reacts

Over the past few hours, various music stars have come forward to react. Everyone from Mariah Carey to Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons have paid respect to Andre’s legacy.

“I am deeply saddend by the loss of my good friend @andreharrell – Andre has been a blessing to so many, including myself. It is with a heavy heart that I post this photo of us a few years ago. A truly gifted and brilliant impressario of the highest calibre. Andre, you will be missed. Love and blessings to Gianni and your family.” -LA Reid’s Instagram

LA Reid pays tribute to Andre Harrell dead at 59
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Long Live Andre Harrell. 🕊🕊🕊🕊

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Teddy Riley pays tribute to Andre Harrell who was reported dead today
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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. 😣

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Wait, There’s More

Andre is most known for helping put on various music pioneers throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Harrell is also responsible for putting music icon Diddy into the biz.

Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, later to be known as Diddy, started off as Uptown as an intern of Harrell’s, and eventually worked there full-time as a talent director, where he helped develop ’90s R&B megastars like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci, even producing the popular “Hip-Hop Remix” of the latter’s 1992 hit “Come and Talk to Me.” (Harrell fired him from Uptown in 1993, leading to Combs starting the epochal Bad Boy label with friend The Notorious B.I.G. as his marquee artist, but the relationship remained amicable: “I knew it was time for him to grow,” he explained to the Wall Street Journal in 2014.) (Billboard)

Before You Go

Throughout the years, both Harrell and Combs have stayed in contact. In addition to maintaining a friendship, they both shared a working relationship.

Harrell would later find a home for Uptown at MCA productions where he developed multiple projects in film and television in the 1990s including the movie and soundtrack “Strictly Business.” In 1995, he went on to run Motown Records as CEO. Through that era, the label was home such acts as Boyz II Men, Jodeci and Al B. Sure. Harrell and Combs remained longtime friends and business associates and Harrell served as vice chairman of Revolt, Combs’ multi-platform music network, and a producer on its panel show “State of the Culture.” (New York Post)

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Written by Rosario Harper

SOHH.com Writer. When I'm not covering hip-hop news and announcements, I'm deep into an Audible book and eating veggies.

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