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Andre Harrell Masterminded The Elevation of Black Culture

His tentacles of influence stretched from the city streets of Harlem to the islands of Mozambique and beyond.

2020 continues to claim 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, has passed away 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 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.

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There are “ friends “ and there are friends .. real friends stick with you through struggle .. the others often run off when things get tough @andreharrell was the best man at my wedding and the go to guy when things were less festive.. in-fact when i was at my all time low he was there supportive and steady Those real friendships can never be replaced Let me offer you my prayer of comfort.. …We are the collective energy /consciousness ..or we are part of the ONE living breathing God …We are separated from this enlightened self when we are put into a shell .. the yogis knows “he is not the body or the mind although she has a body and a mind” This body only confines us and separates us from our knowledge of the true self or God We are left scrambling using this body and mind to go home to the collective We spend an entire lifetime learning that the kingdom we seek is inside of us🕉 … once we see feel and live in this kingdom we realize “it’s all God” and the restrictive shells we are given slide off.. and we return to the realization of the kingdom or heaven Andre has gone home he is free and we celebrate his ascension

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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. It birthed 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

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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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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.

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