UPDATE at 10:45AM PST — His ex-wife, Wendy Credle, said that the cause was heart failure and that Harrell had had heart problems for some time.
The music community has lost another legend. Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Records, who is credited with discovering and mentoring Sean “Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige , Heavy D and Jodeci died on May 8. He was 59.
DJ D-Nice revealed the sad news while spinning on Instagram Live for his popular Club Quarantine series Friday night. He did not specify the cause of death as it was unknown, but HipHollywood has gotten more details.
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According to a well placed source the music titan was on a phone call yesterday, when “the call just dropped.”
“The person didn’t think anything of it,” added the source. After that, attempts to reach Harrell all day by phone were unsuccessful. “His cousin went by this morning and used a spare key and found him dead.”
No cause of death has been determined but our source added that Harrell had a heart condition and that is what they believe played a part in his passing.
A native of New York, Harrell started his career in music as an artist, one-half of the early rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, whose single “Genius Rap” was a minor hit in 1981. In 1983 Harrell teamed with Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records, and had one of his early experiences in the business working as a vice president and later GM of the label.
He left to start his own record company, Uptown Records, in 1986. Stylish, sophisticated and fashion-forward, the label played a key role in the development of the New Jack Swing style of R&B, courtesy of acts like Guy (featuring the hugely influential producer-performer Teddy Riley), Al B. Sure and Jodeci, as well as crossover hip-hop via Heavy D and the Boyz and Father MC. Harrell also signed the teenage Mary J. Blige in the late ’80s, though her career at the label didn’t fully take off until the early ’90s, with help from Harrell’s enterprising former intern, Sean “Puffy” Combs, who was quickly elevated to an A&R position at Uptown.
We caught up with Diddy back in 2018 to talk about his new show “The Four” and his musical influences and he said it starts and ends with Harrell.