Andre Harrell: Remembering the pioneer of the soul of hip-hop

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Andre Harrell, a pivotal figure in the urban music and a pioneer of soul, hip-hop, died on may 8 at the age of 59 years. Harrell was instrumental in the merger of R&B and hip-hop during the New Jack Swing and eras of soul, hip-hop music through his label Uptown Records, creating the architecture to the landscape of the urban music modern.

Andre O’neal Harrell was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1960. While growing up in the projects in Bronxdale, the father of Harrell, who worked in the local market of Hunts Point, encouraged him to do something he loved for a living. Harrell took that seriously and he followed his business instincts in high school, raising money with candy, and picking up additional work with a local courier service. After graduating from Lehman College, he began to ascend as a junior executive in radio, first in a station of the gospel, and then in ad sales in WINNS. However, later said that his true education and vocational training occurred once he managed to enter the list of invitees to the critical points of New York of the time as the Bentley; clubs where he learned all about the business of music and politics.

Inside view of the day learning hip-hop.

Harrell had an inner vision of the days of training hip-hop as half of the duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with the childhood friend Alonzo Brown. The group gained local notoriety and success with her hit from 1981 “Genius Rap”. Rappers dressed in a suit were the first precursors of life-style hip-hop that Harrell”s Uptown Records after popularizaría. Soon after, Harrell met and became fast friend Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, who encouraged him to join the team of Rush Management. Andre quickly ascended to Vice president, and preparing to superstar acts like LL Cool J him to remove their own artistic activities and to focus on developing and promoting the talent.

The discovery of the rapper from Mt Vernon, Heavy D, whom Simmons was not interested in signing, he urged Harrell to form his own company, and founded Uptown Records as a subsidiary of MCA in 1986. The hip-hop scene was full of young seals of rap like Def Jam and Tommy Boy Records, but Harrell was a fan of R&B and he saw the future of the genre in the new sound pop-jack swing. Uptown was created as a place to merge hip-hop and R&B, not only the music, but also cultures, in order to capture the style and energy without the filter of the “ghetto fabulous” of Harlem.

Change the face and the appearance of R&B

Uptown launched quickly successful launches of the hip-hop group Heavy D & The Boyz, the singer of R&B Al B Sure and the R&B Guy, led by the new producer jack swing Teddy Riley. The young seal not only sold music, but a life-style. Like his idol Founder of Motown Berry GordyHarrell had a keen instinct for the development of the artist and the image. The affable character of Heavy D “lover of overweight” and the content lyrical harmless prepared the rapper for the first wave of crossover conventional. The images created in the high zone were later a central part of the newcomers, Mary J Blige and Jodeci that changed the face and the appearance of the R&B-mixing hip-hop and the urban style.

Harrell expanded the scope of Uptown to film and television in 1991 with Strictly Business, a movie starring Tommy Davidson and Halle Berry In Living Color, in his first major role. The film’s success led to MCA to provide a multimedia agreement of $ 50 million with Harrell in 1992, driving it to the player in 32 years to an exclusive circle of magnates of entertainment of Black. “A guy like Andre does not appear in the scene, but once in a while,” said the president of MCA, Al Teller. he told the LA Times at the time. “Ultimately, this business is all about trial creative instincts, and the instincts of Andre on artists and music, and what the public wants are absolutely excellent.”

In the following two years, Uptown was the record label urban leader under the leadership of Andre. He negotiated the first label centered MTV Unplugged special and album (which has not gotten to do since then); launched a television show called New York Undercover, a twist of hip-hop in Miami Vice co-produced with veteran procedural Dick Wolf; and was a mentor to a young and ambitious internal become executive of A&R named Sean Combs, who was learning a formula that soon emularía as the founder and CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment.

An “entertainment entrepreneur lifestyle”

In 1995, Harrell left Uptown Records to step on the shoes of his idol Berry Gordy at the helm of a Motown in trouble. He remained in office for two years, and then joined Bad Boy Entertainment as chairman, lending his wisdom and experience to the label of rapid growth along with Combs. In the years that followed, Harrell co-founded the records of Nu America with singer / songwriter / producer and co-founder of the label by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, and then, showing he still had the instinct of talent, signed a young Robin Thicke. When Combs founded REVOLT, called Harrell as Vice president, where Harrell remained until his death.

Last year, BET announced a miniseries based on the legacy of Harrell and Uptown Records. The races that Harrell helped launch; even Mary J Bligethe celebrity stylist June Ambrose, the film producer Brett Ratner, the hip-hop producer Pete Rock and Sean “Diddy” Combs are just some of the impact of Andre.

In an interview with Upscale, Andre Harrell referred to himself as an “entrepreneur of entertainment-style of life”; Was the first executive to see the value of highlighting all the aspects of Blackness for entertainment in place of a segment in function of the audience. Saw this border complements the enamel, both in aesthetics and in music. He saw a future when the hip-hop culture would be the dominant culture.