The REVOLT family has lost a leader and mentor in music icon and pioneer Andre Harrell. On Friday (May 8), we learned that our vice chairman’s groundbreaking life was cut short at the age of 59. Though we aren’t privy to many of the details surrounding his sudden passing at the moment, it is still very surreal that he is now gone.
We will no longer see him walk into meetings about “State of the Culture” or REVOLT Summit. We will no longer have him share gems and insight, and dictate the moves that REVOLT should be making to strengthen our stance in the culture. He wanted REVOLT to win with every fiber of his being, and now it’s hard to process that he won’t be here to continue to see his and our chairman’s, Sean “Diddy” Combs, vision through. Devastating actually.
Born in Harlem and raised in Bronx, New York; music was always in Harrell’s blood. He started his career in the biz as one half of hip hop duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, who released their hit single “Genius Rap” in 1981. However, in 1983 was when Harrell got his first taste of the music executive lane when he worked as vice president and later general manager of Def Jam Records. Three years later, he would leave that label to found his own – Uptown Records – which was named after his hometown of Harlem, and the rest would be music history.
It is because of Uptown Records that we have music icons like Mary J. Blige, Teddy Riley (the group Guy in general) — who pioneered the New Jack Swing era — Heavy D, Al B. Sure, Jodeci, Father MC, and more. A young and ambitious Combs even got his start in the music industry when he became Harrell’s intern at the company. From that position, the now REVOLT Media & TV chairman would quickly rise to reach an A&R position. It was then that Combs would discover a demo tape by The Notorious B.I.G., who he would later sign to Bad Boy Records.
Not only can Harrell be credited for launching careers of so many iconic recording artists that we know and love today, but he also left his mark in the TV and film industries in the 1990s, as well. After a joint venture between MCA and Uptown Records, Harrell began developing a number of projects such as the movie Strictly Business and its soundtrack. Moreover, in 1995, the mogul would go on to become president and CEO of Motown Records for a stint.
As we continue to mourn the loss of our vice chairman — we called him Dre — REVOLT will be honoring him on our social media platforms, as well as on REVOLT.tv, where we’ll be publishing articles that pay tribute to everything he has done in his monumental career.
While many people say that they spotlight black excellence to do it “for the culture,” Harrell truly lived and breathed that. It’s only right that we, as a culture, and his REVOLT family do the same for him.
Rest in power, Mr. Vice Chairman.