Harrell, who died at age 59, founded Uptown Records and shaped the sound of hip-hop and R&B in the late 1980s and ’90s with acts such as Mary J. Blige, Heavy D & the Boyz, Al B. Sure! and Guy, the R&B trio that also included megaproducer Teddy Riley, the leader of the New Jack Swing movement.
In the early ’90s, Diddy began interning for Uptown and quickly rose up the ranks after finding success with just-signed acts including R&B group Jodeci and Blige, who was dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul with the release of her 1992 debut, “What’s the 411?” Uptown also released Notorious B.I.G.’s first single, 1993’s “Party and Bull----,” which was featured on a film soundtrack.
Diddy often credits Harrell with giving him the tools to find success in music and life, even saying Harrell was like a father figure to him. In 1993, Harrell let go of Diddy, who then launched his uber-successful Bad Boy Records.
Diddy posted multiple tributes to Harrell on social media following his death.
“I hope to God that you are all blessed to have someone in your life that loves you and believes in you like this man believed in me,” Diddy wrote on Instagram. “I’m going to miss him so much. I can’t even imagine life without Dre.”