His first taste of notoriety occurred as half of an early rap duo, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. Ironically, their biggest song sampled the tune “Genius of Love,” who’s title could later be used to describe his persona and unfortunately now his legacy. For those whom he worked with the words, GENUIS and LOVE seem to be the lasting impressions he left upon them. His passing on May 7, 2020, while leaving a huge void in music circles, also provides a medium for us to collectively harken back to his profound rise as a cultural powerhouse. As the founder of Uptown Records, Andre launched the careers of Mary J. Blige, Heavy D and the Boyz, Jodeci, Al B. Sure, Anthony Hamilton, The Lost Boyz, Teddy Riley and Guy, while also mentoring the hip hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. By the end of 1994, Billboard Magazine ranked Uptown second amongst all the major labels for the number of charted R&B singles and fifth for R&B charted albums. Names in that bunch have shape shifted the landscape of history and kept alive the ideal of R&B/Soul and hip hop all being of the same BLACK music cloth and can’t be divided.
Harrell expanded into television and film where he created and executive produced the first multicultural major network television drama ever, “New York Undercover,” starring Malik Yoba, Michael DeLorenzo and Lauren Velez, where he tabbed the savant James MTUME as the music director. Why was this of import? Well as MTUME explained, “What I wanted to do as a composer was put a Black sound on TV in a way that it had never been done. When the show came out in 1994, ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ was just taken off the air, so there was no place to really see Black artists. So, I created a club in the show called Natalie’s and would bring young artists in and have them redo a classic and bring in classic artists and they’d redo one of their hits. All of the music was reimagined and produced by myself; the workload was incredible, but I put that on myself. Of all the things I was able to accomplish, I’m most proud of ‘New York Undercover.’” Once more, Harrell with a gamechanger.
This Sunday, May 24, 2020, at 7 p.m. ET some of entertainment, music, and fashion’s biggest stars will come together to memorialize one of the architects for Black media and the founder of Uptown Records, the late Andre Harrell, also known endearingly by close family and friends as “Mr. Champagne and Bubbles.” Fans will be able to watch commercial-free on BET, BET Jams, BET Soul and REVOLT TV while streaming on all iONE digital brands, and on Fox Soul (www.foxsoul.tv) or via the Fox Soul App.
Executive Produced by Wendy Credle, Rikki Hughes and Harrell’s son, Gianni Credle-Harrell, the broadcast will feature special guest tributes by Chris Rock, Mariah Carey, Jamie Foxx, Babyface, Naomi Campbell, Lee Daniels, Robin Thicke, Russell Simmons, Kimora Lee Simmons, Clarence Avant, and more.
“There is a divine message when a soul as bright as Andre’s, Mr. Champagne & Bubbles, the official life of the party, chooses to transition during a time when so many people whose lives he touched so deeply, cannot get together to console each other, to share joy-filled stories, and to do the ‘humpty humps’ two-step in the name of his love,” says Credle. “This tribute is our gift to Andre. When his day came, Andre said, ‘Listen, if they ain’t playing Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go” at my funeral, guess what, I ain’t going.’” He said, “I don’t want a funeral. I want a party.” Well, Andre, in the words of Frankie, “You made us happy, This you can bet, You stood right beside us, And we won’t forget.”
Over and out, stay safe. Please. Holla next week! Until then, enjoy the nightlife.