Remembering Andre Harrell | He Masterminded The Elevation of Black Culture

2020 claimed the lives of deeply influential game-changers of Black culture. 

Andre Harrell, a pioneer, trailblazer, mentor and legend in music, hip hop and Black culture, passed away a year ago at 59-years-old.

The cause of death is unknown, but what is known is that he was a giant in the entertainment industry and sparked the careers of some of music’s most influential minds — most notably P.Diddy whose business sense was cultivated under Harrell at Uptown Records before founding his own Bad Boy label and turning hip-hop out.

Harrell was one of the driving forces of the Hip-Hop culture and a necessary cultural protector, with a seat at the table of white corporate boardrooms deciding the fate and direction of Black music and entertainment.

News of Harrell’s passing was first announced by DJ D-Nice during his latest Instagram “Club Quarantine” Live DJ party early that Saturday morning.

The legendary executive is best known for founding Uptown Records in 1986. The label launched the gamechanging careers of P. Diddy as well as other classic music acts such as Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Heavy D & The Boyz, Jodeci, Father MC and more.

 

 

Before starting his own label he was part of the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde which dropped the 1982 hit “Genius Rap”, and also worked with his great friend Russell Simmons at an early Def Jam Records.

Following his stint at Uptown records, Harrell went on to become the CEO of Motown Records. He was even Emmis family as he hosted a radio show named Champagne & Bubbles on Sunday nights from 6pm-9pm EST on 98.7 KISS FM.

Before his passing, Harrell had served as Vice Chairman of REVOLT TV & Media.

According to reports, he was also working on an epic three-part miniseries titled Uptown which was supposed to be released this year on BET.

He will be sorely missed by family, friends and the magnitude of his impact on music, and entertainment will probably always be understated because real G’s move in silence and Andre was the man behind so much greatness. The mouthpiece and mind massager of some of Hip-Hop’s most influential people. 

The list of people Harrell mentored is a who’s who of music, entertainment. In fact, he was a mentor to our very own Shadow League CEO Keith Clinkscale, a multi-media force in his own right.   

Harrell was also a giant in television and film. New York Undercover was the TV drama that remixed the narrative by starring two minority cops hunting criminals of all races successfully.

 

 

The show soundtracks were right in tune with the music of the times. The storylines were fresh, innovative, and birthed in the harsh realities of the streets. The show launched the acting career of Malik Yoba and always ended at the club with the latest hip-hop or R&B artist closing the show with a dope performance.

If Black culture was a bus, then Harrell was the driver through most of the 90s and 2000s. Then he started letting his proteges take the wheel, but he was always making moves and always there when “the culture” needed him. 

Despite the reverence that is being bestowed upon him today, many people feel as if he never got his roses while he was alive

RIP King. Your legacy lives on. Your tentacles stretch from the city streets of Harlem to the islands of Mozambique and beyond. Your life serves as an everlasting inspiration for dreamers, achievers, and Black excellence.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.