Producer and record executive Andre Harrell was born on September 26, 1960 in Harlem, New York. At the age of sixteen, Harrell and high school friend, Alonzo Brown, formed the hip hop duo, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde; and in 1980, they signed with Tayster and Rojac Records in Harlem. They released several hit songs including “Genius Rap,” “Fast Life,” and “AM/PM” as well as the 1984 album, The Champagne of Rap. Harrell attended Lehman College, where he majored in communications and business management, but left after three years to work for a local news station, WINS.
In 1983, Harrell began working for Russell Simmons at RUSH Management. Within two years, he became the vice president and general manager of Def Jam Records, where he helped launch the careers of Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Whodini. In 1986, Harrell founded his own record label, Uptown Records, where he worked with Heavy D. & The Boyz, Al B. Sure, Notorious B.I.G., Guy, Jodeci, McGruff, Sean Combs, Lost Boyz, and The Gyrlz. He also worked with Mary J. Blige, releasing her debut album, What’s the 411?, with Uptown in 1992. That same year, Harrell accepted a multimedia deal with MCA Music Entertainment Group. He was also the executive producer of Fox’s hit crime television show, New York Undercover, which aired from 1994 to 1998. Harrell was also the executive producer of several films, including Strictly Business in 1991, and Honey in 2003. Harrell became the chief executive officer of Motown Records in 1995, where he oversaw the careers of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Queen Latifah. Harrell also founded Nu Records, and served as an executive producer on Robin Thicke’s and Pharrell William’s 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines.” In 2013, Harrell became the vice chairman of Sean Combs’ multimedia company, Revolt TV Network. He played an instrumental role in launching the Revolt Music Conference in Miami, Florida, which was attended by Guy Oseary, Russell Simmons and L.A. Reid.
In 2009, Harrell received a Cultural Excellence Award from the National Action Network. He was also the recipient of BET’s Culture Creators Award in 2016.
Andre Harrell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 23, 2018.