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With a career in music and entertainment that has spanned upwards of 40 years, Andre Harrell’s well of knowledge overflowed. His experience in music, television, film, and elsewhere taught him countless jewels, which he passed down to others likes of music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, and countless of other artists and executives he helped groom during his stints as president and general manager of Def Jam Recordings, founder and CEO of Uptown Records, and CEO of Motown Records.
Continuing to add to his legacy in his role as vice chairman of REVOLT prior to his death, Harrell, who passed away on May 8 at the age of 59, is regarded as one of the most influential and inspirational record men of the hip hop generation, who had plenty of industry insight that will resonate well beyond his time on this earth.
REVOLT shares seven inspirational quotes from the late music exec to inspire you. Check them out below.
1. On Refusing To Be Defined By Your Circumstances
“Money cannot give you taste, but you can teach someone how to have it. I’ve acquired it. The only thing ghetto about me is that I come from the ghetto. What I’m doing right now is just straight-up fabulous,” he once told The New Yorker.
2. On Being Unapologetically Black As A Creative
3. On Pursuing Your Passion
“Do something that makes you feel happy, so it doesn’t feel like working. My dad worked hard at the produce market in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, but he didn’t love it, so he was unhappy,” Harrell once told Reuters. That experience made me move towards something I really wanted to do because otherwise, I would feel trapped like him. Sometimes negative experiences can lead you in a positive direction.”
4. On Climbing The Ladder To Success
“They gotta get in where they fit in. They don’t have to worry so much about meeting me, they need to meet my intern, they need to meet my secretary. They need to start and make someone who’s not a notable person, make them feel like a notable person and then endear themselves and empower that person with whatever they have to offer, so that they get in. They gotta be team players and they gotta understand that in order to get to the top, you gotta make the people at the bottom feel like they’re at the top.”
5. On Being Confident In The Face of Doubt
“They don’t know me,” he said to Vanity Fair in reference to the skepticism that his peers in the music industry have of him. “I don’t feel put off by that. I feel like they say, ‘This is the hotshot record man of the minute.’ No problem. I’ll get in. I’ll do my thing. And then I’ll earn my respect.” He added: “Being black has paid off well so far. I’m not trying to trade it in right now. Being black is being pop in the 90s.”
6. On Dreaming Beyond Your Current Station In Life
“I wanted to bring back the style of Harlem in the twenties, which is why I named the company Uptown, to evoke that sleek style. Most of the guys who make rap music are from the suburbs, middle-class or lower-middle-class backgrounds,” Harrell said in a previous New York Magazine feature. I’m the only one that’s actually from the ghetto. I’ve seen hard, I lived hard, and I didn’t wanna see that shit. When you’re from the projects, you want to see the good life... you want style and glamour. You want to see mansions, champagne and caviar, fancy cars, beautiful women.”
7. On Why Diversity In The Music Industry Matters
“Black music is becoming the music of the popular culture… But, as black music becomes more important, there should be more black presidents and more black chairmen. As soon as the black executive’s artist reaches platinum, suddenly the artist and manager have to deal with the president…because he controls the priorities at pop radio. As [the black executive’s] music gets bigger, his power diminishes. He’s more or less told, ‘Go find the next act and establish it,’ the late mogul said in a VIBE interview.