Andre Harrell has died at the age of 59.
The legendary music executive founded the influential label Uptown Records in the late 1980s, and paved the way for Sean “Diddy” Combs’ career. He died Thursday night at his home in West Hollywood, Calif. His ex-wife, Wendy Credle, said that the cause of death was heart failure and that Harrell suffered from heart problems for some time, according to The New York Times.
DJ D-Nice was first to share the heartbreaking news while hosting his popular Club Quarantine series on Instagram Live on Friday night.
Harrell, born Andre O’Neal Harrell in the Bronx on Sep. 26, 1960, started his career as one-half of Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, the rap duo behind successful singles including 1981’s “Genius Rap” and 1984’s “A.M./P.M.” In 1983, Harrell teamed up with Russell Simmons at Def Jam and served as vice president and general manager of the label, working with artists including Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Whodini.
He left to start his own record company, Uptown Records, in 1986, and helped launch the careers of Jodeci, Al B. Sure!, Guy, and Heavy D and the Boyz. Harrell also signed a teenage Mary J. Blige in the late ’80s, and opened the door for The Notorious B.I.G., who Diddy discovered while at Uptown before signing him to Bad Boy Records in 1993.
“My goal is to bring real black America — just as it is, not watered down — to people everywhere through music, through films, through everything we do,” Harrell told the Los Angeles Times in 1992.
Diddy has yet to address his death. In January, he paid tribute to his mentor while accepting the Industry Icon Award at The Recording Academy and Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy Gala, likening him to a father figure. “I told him I’d wash cars, quit school — anything — a priceless chance to be in your presence,” Diddy told The New York Times in 2005.
The music community is mourning the devastating loss while honoring Harrell’s legacy. Friends including Mariah Carey, L.A. Reid, Russell Simmons, Usher, and Teddy Riley paid tribute to him on social media. “We’ve lost one of the greatest mentors in my life,” said Riley, while Carey added, “My heart is breaking and I can’t stop crying. He was an amazing friend and I will miss him forever.”
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
Ahh man😢 My brother my friend my mentor wow …We just spoke and your energy was way up. Your spirits were so high 🙏🏽I could of never predict that you was on your way home King🙏🏽 Thank you for always supporting good… https://t.co/VcihfB5GWB
— SWIZZ BEATZ (@THEREALSWIZZZ) May 9, 2020
— MAXWELL (@_MAXWELL_) May 9, 2020
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 Jan was the artform.
Bad Boy was the attitude… https://t.co/mPD2R8MZK1
— Hold On Be Strong (@questlove) 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
😔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
I’m completely fucked up at the loss of The Godfather @iamAndreHarrell 😭😭😭 at a complete loss for words. Was my mentor, teacher, forefather, and always rooted for me. I love you and I hate this!!!! RIP King!! https://t.co/WNSMnZNzSn
— Busta Rhymes (@BustaRhymes) May 9, 2020
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Another sad day😔🙏🏽 We’ve lost one of the greatest mentors in my life. I’m so happy I got to tell you 1 hour before the versus Battle, how much I respect and love you, as my big brother and mentor! The pep talk that you’ve giving me right before, felt like the same pep talks that you’ve given me the beginning of Uptown records, sleeping on the couch at your office (Brownstone) in BK. You chose me out of all the kids that you could have picked to work with you. I can replay IT in my head, all of the moments that I’ve taken the train and when I got my first car driving to Brooklyn, skipping school, and becoming that sponge just to learn and get my hands on that mixing board at Chung King Studios. I will never forget, all of these cherished moments and I will never forget you!!! 🙏🏽 🙏🏽 🙏🏽 I salute you…King of New Jack Swing👑👑👑 My condolences to the Harrell family & to my Uptown family 4life!!! #rip #greatest #legend #legacy #newjackswing #king
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Heartbreaking – No words, my best friend 💔 always compassionate, good-hearted, full of love and.. what a beautiful legacy he leaves in this world… All the inspiration, direction and support he gave to so many… So many can say they are successful because Andre Harrell gave them their start. He was so beloved because he made his living uplifting others… We celebrate him in his passing because we were so blessed for his presence… He gave everything he had. God makes the best plans R.I.P @andreharrell
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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.