The hip-hop and R&B community is mourning the loss of Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, who has died at the age of 59.
“Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving,” Legend tweeted. “He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture.”
News of Harrell’s death was first announced by DJ D-Nice on his Instagram Live early Saturday, and sources have separately confirmed it to Billboard. Details of his death are not yet known.
Harrell’s impact runs deep, stemming from the success he accrued as the founder of Uptown Records in the 1980s, to grooming future music mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs. At its peak, Harrell’s roster was oozing with talent, ranging from Heavy D and The Boyz to Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Guy, and at one point, Notorious B.I.G.
“Today I lost my hero, my mentor, and friend Andre Harrell @andreharrell,” Jodeci’s K-Ci wrote on Instagram. “I am truly hurt and at a loss for words. He introduced me to a whole new culture, and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I will forever be grateful. Rest in peace my friend, you will be missed. My love and condolences to the Harrell & Uptown family.”
Jodeci member JoJo also commented on the passing of Harrell. “I’m speechless. I’m in disbelief. Andre was a wonderful man … he started my career,” JoJo said in a statement. “The world would have never known me without him. He started a lot of people’s careers and I owe that man a lot. He will be very missed; it’s gonna take a while to get over this.”
Sylvia Rhone, Chair and CEO of Epic Records, tells Billboard that Harrell “was the consummate renaissance man who personified New York City. He was one of the true visionaries of black culture who created superstars and defined trends across the spectrum of entertainment, whether it was music, film, TV or fashion. He had an amazing ear, a keen eye for talent, and an exquisite sense of style and taste. When he walked into a room he lit it up and owned it, making everyone around him better with one huge smile. His energy was truly infectious and his drive was tireless. He was one of a kind!”
See more tributes below from Russell Simmons, 50 Cent, Chuck D, Bryan Michael Cox and more.
Why Andre 😢😢😢 My heart is breaking and I can't stop crying. He was an amazing friend and I will miss him forever. 😢
— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) May 9, 2020
R.I.P to Andre Harrell God Bless him. pic.twitter.com/KMhEv6GHr2
— 50cent (@50cent) May 9, 2020
RIP Andre Harrell. Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving. He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture
— John Legend (@johnlegend) May 9, 2020
Statement from Universal Music Group:
“We mourn the loss of Andre Harrell, the founder of Uptown Records, one of R&B and hip-hop’s most significant labels, where he molded a distinct sound and launched the careers of many seminal artists who continue to influence music today. Andre’s countless contributions to Universal Music Group include serving as President and General Manager of Def Jam Recordings, CEO of Motown Records and as a successful film and television producer at MCA. UMG and the entire music industry have lost a truly visionary member of our community and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”
What the fuck man???? Andre Harrell??? Man, fuck 2020 bro.
— BMC (@bryanmichaelcox) May 9, 2020
R.I. P. Andre Harrell. Thank you for creating the foundation for so much of the music that shaped me. pic.twitter.com/by0o3dnyR2
— Taye Diggs (@TayeDiggs) May 9, 2020
Andre Harrell really laid the vision of black identity in the mid 90s we reminisce about.
All of it.
— CHUCK INGLISH (@Chuckisdope) May 9, 2020
RIP Andre Harrell…thank you for the gift of so many incredible artists. Gone too soon.❤ pic.twitter.com/DRcxWJFFIy
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) May 9, 2020
Such a tragic loss for the music industry and for all of us. Andre's genius paved the way for so many of the kings and queens of hip hop and R&B. Sending my love to his family and friends during this difficult time. https://t.co/vdA26AGFgr
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 9, 2020
So sorry to hear this news.
André Harrell was a longtime friend and music legend responsible for artists like:
Mary J Blige
Al B Sure
Soul For Real
Rest In Peace.
— Holly Robinson Peete 💃🏾♍️ (@hollyrpeete) May 9, 2020
shocked and saddened. so glad we got to meet. rest in peace andre harrell ❤️
— Ella Mai (@ellamai) May 9, 2020
😔LEGEND your name sits high. You molded the most ICONIC R&B/Hiphop artist in MUSIC! I met you in the 90’s & you asked me to write 4 Taral Hicks & everytime you saw me you told me to keep writing! Your accomplishments speaks for itself but YOU THE PERSON is who WE LOVE🕊Rip💜 pic.twitter.com/S1gjdf9lKR
— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) May 9, 2020
RIP ANDRE HARRELL
RIP LITTLE RICHARD
— Steve Reidell (@hoodinternet) May 9, 2020