Andre Harrell, the man responsible for signing a young Sean ” Diddy” Combs to his first record deal and later went on to head Motown Records, has died. He was 59 years old and his cause of death is currently unknown.
A native of New York, Harrell started his career in music as an artist, one-half of the rap duo Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. 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, where he signed Sean “Puffy” Combs. He later brought Mary J. Blige onto the roster and saw success with both artists in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.
Combs took an A&R position at Uptown which led to him discovering the demo tape for a rapper named Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G. As the story goes, Diddy was fired from Uptown in 1993 after which he launched Bad Boy Records and promptly signed Wallace to a deal.
Harrell would later find a home for Uptown at MCA productions where he developed multiple projects in film and television in the 1990s including the movie and soundtrack “Strictly Business.” In 1995, he went on to run Motown Records as CEO. Through that era, the label was home such acts as Boyz II Men, Jodeci and Al B. Sure.
Harrell and Combs remained longtime friends and business associates and Harrell served as vice chairman of Revolt, Combs’ multi-platform music network, and a producer on its panel show “State of the Culture.”