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Harrell, Andre 1962(?)–

Andre Harrell 1962(?)

Musician, media industry executive

At a Glance

Filled the Urban Void

Joined With MCA

In the Game

From Uptown to Motown

From Hitsville to Pittsville

Sources

I am a lifestyle entertainment entrepreneur, professed Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Entertainment in Upscale magazine. Im promoting the whole spectrum of black lifestyles, from the teenage street hip-hop lifestyle to an adult, upwardly mobile black lifestyle. With his record label, Uptown Records, Harrell promoted the black lifestyle by catapulting former unknowns Jodeci, Heavy D and The Boyz, Mary J. Blige, and Al B. Sure! to stardom. Upscale noted that Harrell quickly gained a reputation as having a golden finger on the pulse of whats hot in the music industry, and left the entire entertainment industry standing at rapt attention, waiting for his next successful move. While the chances for any marked success have been minuscule for most young record producers, Harrell demonstrated such an uncanny ability to package and market young black singers that he was offered a seven-year, $50 million deal to produce projects with MCA Music Entertainment Group and Universal Picturesan astounding deal rivaled only by those offered to megastars Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Born Andre ONeal Harrell to a supermarket foreman and a nurses aide, Harrell grew up in the housing projects of the Bronx, New York. While both of his parents labored for their meager existence, Harrell was somehow confident of a promising future. Though he was a self described poor, inner-city kid, he explained, I grew up thinking wonderful things could happen, I always believed Id have a wonderful life.

Harrells sixteenth year was a watershed period in his life. While his parents were divorcing, he teamed up with high-school buddy, Alonzo Brown to form the successful rap duo, Dr. Jekyll (Harrell) and Mr. Hyde (Brown). For their first performance, the duo stood atop chairs and rapped for a crowd of 40 that had gathered at the DeWitt Clinton Housing Project. Harrell said he turned to rapping because I couldnt play basketball well enough to be on the starting team, but I could rap well enough. In fact, Harrell and Brown rapped so well that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde enjoyed three top 20 hits: Genius Rap, Fast Life, and AM/FM.

In the late seventies, the duo became popular weekend rappers, but having set his sights on becoming a newscaster, Harrell went on to study communications and business management at the Bronxs Lehman College. After three years, however, he dropped out and went to work selling air time for a local radio

At a Glance

Born Andre ONeal Harrell, c. 1962. Education: Attended Lehman College.

Career: With Alonzo Brown, formed Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde (rap duo); Rush Management, New York City, vice president and general manager, c. 1985; Uptown Records, New York, NY, founder and president, 1987-92; Uptown Entertainment, New York, NY, president, 1992-1995; Motown Records, president and CEO, 1995-1997; Bad Boy Entertainment, consultant, 1999-.

Addresses: OfficeBad Boy Entertainment, 8-10 W. 19th St. 9th floor, New York, New York, 10011.

station. In 1983, Harrell met Russell Simmons, the founder of Rush Management, a company that launched the careers of cutting-edge black street artists. In time, Simmons persuaded Harrell to come to work for Rush at a mere $200 per week. Within his two years at Rush, Harrell became vice-president and general manager, playing a pivotal role in building the careers of artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Whodini.

Filled the Urban Void

While at Rush, Harrell became increasingly aware that a certain black lifestyle was missing from the marketplace. Rush did a phenomenal job of promoting the raw, black street sound, but Harrell saw another black sound being overlooked: the more subtle sound coming from the marriage of rhythm and blues with hip-hop. The black lifestyle, Harrell saw, was being expressed in extremes: in the street culture of many cutting edge black musicians and in the bourgeois culture represented, somewhat unrealistically, in televisions Cosby Show.

Harrell felt he could bridge the gap between street and middle to upper class. I had more of an understanding of what this vibe was all about than any other major label executive I knew, he commented. In 1986, he left Rush Management to launch Uptown Records, a company that would fill the void in urban black music. Longtime friend tag Nelson George explained that Harrell made music for the type of people he knew growing up, the black bus driver from Queens [New York] who wears suits on weekends and goes to clubs to pick up girls. Harrell argued that the mediaespecially white criticsthink it is boring when black people sing about being in love or paying bills. Uptown was created to market music reflective of a more mainstream black lifestyle.

Harrell took Uptown through a series of successes. By 1988, MCA was courting Harrell and offered him a $75,000 label deal. His first release under MCA, a compilation of works by then-unknown artists, was a huge success. Harrell followed up this surprise hit by producing Heavy Ds platinum album, Livin Large. He built on these first successes with hit albums from Al B Sure! and Guy. It became almost commonplace to see Uptown releases go gold or platinum, as the enterprise became a major force in the music industry.

Joined With MCA

With the growing popularity of Uptowns artists, the companys success continued to grow until 1992, when MCA offered Harrell a $50 million multimedia deal. The nearly unprecedented arrangement opened up Harrells creative vistas to include film and television. Uptown Records thus was renamed Uptown Entertainment. Over the next seven years Harrell produced albums with MCA Music Entertainment Group and featured his recording artists in film and television productions for Universal Pictures and Universal Television respectively.

With the power to produce for music, film, and television, Harrells mission remained the same: I want to tell stories about everyday black people that will have a wide reaching appealexperiences that are African American, but feelings that are universal. Working with MCA/Universal allowed Harrell to nearly triple Uptowns staff and to set up satellite offices in Los Angeles.

With ever increasing responsibilities and less time for being in the mix, Harrell staffed both his New York City and Los Angeles Uptown offices with young producers and vice-presidents who could keep him connected to the pulse of the urban African American lifestyle. The swell of funds and staff also allowed Uptown to thrive with the incorporation of in-house video, publicity, and marketing departments.

Uptown Entertainment immediately launched development of a full slate of film and television projects, many featuring Uptown recording artists. For example, it was not long before Uptown Entertainment sold a pilot to Fox Television starring Heavy D as a rapping dad. A drama called Flavor, a variety/comedy show similar to In Living Color, and a feature film starring the soulful singers of En Vogue were also soon in the works.

Uptowns musical prowess was celebrated in 1993, when Music Television (MTV) showcased Uptown recording artists Mary J. Blige, Father MC, Heavy D, Christopher Williams, and Jodeci on the cable networks popular acoustic show, Unplugged. Not surprisingly, this event was the first time that the popular show had devoted its entire time slot to artists of a single record label. The show was such a success that it was released as a video.

In the Game

In addition to creating overwhelming pressures to keep increasing profits, Harrells success reaped the financial rewards necessary to build thelifestyle he dreamed of during his childhood in the housing projects of the Bronx. In 1988, Harrell recalled. I was rollin. I was in the game. I was coming into spots and it was going on. I was all over the country, all over the world. I was 20 years old. The dough was flowing. I bought a house. Bought a BMW. Two. Was Happy. It was the beginning of the game. I was crazy happy. Crazy happy. He enjoyed his success thoroughly, earned a reputation as the premiere party-giver on the east coast. However, he realized that with success came a responsibility, for, as he told I want to show kids what can be achieved if they never take no for an answer.

Harrells extraordinary rise in the music, film, and television industries prompted the inevitable reflection on just what accounts for such success. In large part he credited his success with being both a rap artist and an entrepreneur. As a former performer Harrell gained a rapport with musicians that some industry executives lacked. He was perceived as a peer of musicians, an approachable ally.

Harrells entrepreneurial savvy may have also found its roots in his youth in the Bronx. Chris Albrecht of Home Box Office (HBO) Independent Productions told Vanity Fair that Harrells business edge was reflective of his street-fighter sense of survival. In essence, Harrells success stemmed from fierce determination. As he told Vanity Fair, I can do just about anything I want. Its a matter of will. Yeah, I guess you have to be talented and smart and stuff, and I hope Ive proven that. But I know, at this point in my career, the doors of opportunity are open. As long as I have the desire and the will to want to do it, a lot of different things will get ready to happen.

From Uptown to Motown

By the end of 1994, according to Billboard, Uptown ranked second among all labels for number of charted R&B singles fifth for the number of charted R&B albums. Harrell was at the top, and the door of opportunity opened wide. Harrell had been identified as the person to build new artists, and to keep them going strong. Hes driven, said Alain Levy, president and CEO of Dutch conglomerate, PolyGram, who bought Motown in 1993. Motown, an internationally known record label, had lost its dominant status and was in search of someone to help bring the label back into the limelight. Polygramhad their eye on Harrell as the man who could breathe new life into Motown, the first wholly black-owned record company that had, at one time, an impressive roster of stars. In 1995 Harrell became the new president and CEO, replacing Jheryl Busby, who was credited for helping Motown out of its slump in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Aside from being energetic and talented, Harrell was thought to be an excellent choice perhaps because his style was similar to Motowns founder, Berry Gordy. Harrell told Eric L. Smith of Black Enterprise, When I was building Uptown, I realized a lot of my philosophies were similar to what Berry Gordy did in the 60s. And I think what I bring to the party is a youthful kind of feel and a new kind of energy. Harrell regarded Motown as the best name in the entertainment business, and willingly made the move. Harrell admitted to Adam White, writer for Billboard, The one thing that made me want to take this opportunity [to lead the company] was to be in a position to make superstars. That you could do things in a first-class fashion: that when you knew you had quality product, you could put it out on the good china.

Harrells new responsibilities were overseeing all of Motowns operations: marketing, publishing, creative development, and sales for all of Motowns music labels, MoJazz, Mad Sounds, and Biv Ten. Since the Berry Gordy days of Motown, the company had also developed other business interests such as film and television, animations, video production, and multi media productions; Harrell was in charge of it all. Levy had high expectations and essentially gave Harrell free reign. He was extremely successful in identifying new artists and helping artists remain strong, but Harrell may not have been ready for the particular challenges of running a mega company, such as the legendary Motown.

From Hitsville to Pittsville

Of the 30 new acts that Harrell signed for Motown, and of the few acts which had released albums, none had qualified as a major hit. According to Forbes, Motown lost as much as $100 million dollars during the first 22 months with Harrell on the job. During his first year on the job, Harrell increased Motowns headcount by about 50% and moved Motown headquarters from Los Angeles to New York City. Robert La Francos article in Forbes stated that One source figures the move alone cost $10 million. He was known for his lavish spending and was heavily criticized for a selfpromotion campaign that he organized and funded before a single album had been released. Harrell was scrutinized further: on one hand he was credited for increasing the pay of black executives to industry standards, but on the other hand he was operating on, according to Newsweek, broken promises and badfaith negotiations.

The fact that Harrell failed to live up to the industrys expectations reflected some of the woes of the music industry. Harrell may have been trying to keep the essence of Gordys Motown intact, when in fact he could not. In Newsweek, Jonnie L. Roberts cited music historian, Nelson George, as saying, Motowns decline became almost inevitable as early as the 70s, when white-owned record giants, such as CBS Records (now Sony Music), made a grab for the black-music business most black record labels, like Motown, are controlled by entertainment conglomerates run by white executives. The irony for Motown has been that it cant compete with the biggies in wooing and keeping top black talent. Music executives have addressed the fact that, as record labels were eaten up by large conglomerates, many black executives were excluded and that black music departments were dismantled. What was left was an industry where even though black music often dominated the charts, there were few black executives. Tommy Matolla of Sony said, As an industry, we really need to strengthen the whole black executive pool.

After two years at Motown, Harrell resigned. Harrell issued a statement that was published in Jet, My decision to resign comes after considerable reflection about what is best for Motown in the wake of the restructuring. Despite his energy, vision, and commitment to bringing Motown back into glory, Harrell was unable to do it.

After his tenure at Motown, Harrell formed Harrell Entertainment and returned to doing what he does wellworking and consulting with new artists. In the fall of 1998, Sean Puffy Combs, founder and CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment, hired Andre Harrell as a consultant. While talking about Harrell with writer Anita M. Samuels from Billboard, Combs said, Hes one of the wisest men in the business. He taught me almost everything I know.

Sources

Billboard, May 11, 1991, pp. 21, 26; December 12, 1992, pp. 10, 83; June 20, 1992, pp. 8, 89; October 13, 1995, p 8; March 9, 1996, p. 48; November 14, 1998, p. 25.

Black Enterprise, August 1993, p. 74; December, 1995, p. 20.

Ebony, November 1991, pp. 156, 160-64; October 1993, p. 50.

Forbes, September 8, 1997, p. 48.

Gentlemens Quarterly, April 1993, pp. 168-75, 245.

Hollywood Reporter, June 30, 1998, p. 6.

Jet, September 1, 1997, p.64.

Newsweek, December 2, 1996, p. 49.

Upscale, September/October 1993, pp. 128-29.

Vanity Fair, September 1993, pp. 188-91, 233-38.

Vibe, December/January 1994, pp. 70-3.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Uptown Entertainment press materials.

Lisa Fredricks and Christine Miner Minderovic

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"Harrell, Andre 1962(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Harrell, Andre 1962(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/harrell-andre-1962-0

Harrell, Andre

Andre Harrell

Record company executive

For the Record

Filled the Urban Void

Joined With MCA

In the Game

From Uptown to Motown

Sources

When Andre Harrell was touring the legendary Hits-ville U.S.A. building, the birthplace of Motown, shortly after becoming the companys president and CEO, he told Brian McCollum of the Detroit Free Press, This is so much bigger than just being president of a record company. Its like being inducted into some kind of musical royal family. As one of the reigning kings of black entertainment, its an appropriate analogy. I am a lifestyle entertainment entrepreneur, he said in Upscale magazine while president of his own Uptown Entertainment. Im promoting the whole spectrum of black lifestyles, from the teenage street hip-hop lifestyle to an adult, upwardly mobile black lifestyle. While heading Uptown Records, Harrell promoted the black lifestyle by catapulting former unknowns Jodeci, Heavy D and The Boyz, Mary J. Blige, and Al B. Sure! to stardom. Upscale magazine noted that Harrell quickly gained a reputation as having a golden finger on the pulse of whats hot in the music industry, and left the entire entertainment industry standing at rapt attention, waiting for his next successful move.

Born Andre ONeal Harrell to a supermarket foreman and a nurses aid, Harrell grew up in the housing projects of the Bronx, New York. While both of his parents labored for their meager existence, young Harrell was somehow confident of a promising future. Though he was a self described poor, inner-city kid, he explained that, I grew up thinking wonderful things could happen, I always believed Id have a wonderful life.

Harrells 16th year was a watershed period in his life. While his parents were divorcing, he teamed up with high-school buddy, Alonzo Brown to form the successful rap duo, Dr. Jekyll (Harrell) and Mr. Hyde (Brown). For their first performance, the duo stood atop chairs and rapped for a crowd of 40 that had gathered at the DeWitt Clinton Housing Project. Harrell said he turned to rapping because, I couldnt play basketball well enough to be on the starting team, but I could rap well enough. In fact, Harrell and Brown rapped so well that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde enjoyed three top 20 hits: Genius Rap, Fast Life, and AM/FM.

The duo became popular weekend rappers, but having set his sights on becoming a newscaster, Harrell went on to study communications and business management at the Bronxs Lehman College. After three years, however, he dropped out and went to work selling air time for a local radio station. In 1983, Harrell met Russell Simmons, the founder of Rush Management, a company that launched the careers of cutting-edge black street artists. In time, Simmons persuaded Harrell to come to work for Rush at a mere $200 per week. Within his two years at Rush, Harrell became vice-president

For the Record

Born Andre ONeal Harrell, c. 1962. Education: Attended Lehman College.

With Alonzo Brown, formed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (rap duo); Rush Management, New York City, vice president and general manager, c. 1985; Uptown Records, New York, NY, founder and president, 1987-92; Uptown Entertainment, New York, NY, president, 1992-95; Motown Record Company, President and CEO, 1995-.

Addresses: Office Motown Record Company, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 300, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

and general manager, playing a pivotal role in building the careers of artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Whoodini.

Filled the Urban Void

While at Rush, Harrell became increasingly aware of a void in the marketplace for a certain black lifestylea very urban, young adult, cool vibe. Rush did a phenomenal job of promoting the raw, black street sound, but Harrell saw another black sound being overlooked: the more subtle sound coming from the marriage of rhythm and blues with hip-hop. The black lifestyle, Harrell saw, was being expressed in extremes: in the street culture of many cutting edge black musicians and in the bourgeois culture represented, somewhat unrealistically, in televisions Cosby Show.

Harrell felt he could bridge the gap between street and middle to upper class. I had more of an understanding of what this vibe was all about than any other major label executive I knew, he commented. He left Rush Management to launch Uptown Records, a company that would fill the void in urban black music. Longtime friend tag Nelson George explained that Harrell made music for the type of people he knew growing up, the black bus driver from Queens [New York] who wears suits on weekends and goes to clubs to pick up girls. Harrell argued that the mediaespecially white criticsthink it is boring when black people sing about being in love or paying bills. Uptown was created to market music reflective of a more mainstream black lifestyle.

Harrell took Uptown through a series of successes. By 1988, MCA was courting Harrell and offered him a $75,000 label deal. His first release under MCA, a compilation of works by then-unknown artists, was a huge success. Harrell followed up this surprise hit by producing Heavy Ds platinum album, LivinLarge. He built on these first successes with hit albums from Al B Sure! and Guy. It became almost commonplace to see Uptown releases go gold or platinum, as the enterprise became a major force in the music industry.

Joined With MCA

With the growing popularity of its artists, Uptowns success continued multiplied until 1992, when MCA offered Harrell a $50 million multimedia deal. The nearly unprecedented arrangement opened up Harrells creative vistas to include film and television. Uptown Records thus was renamed Uptown Entertainment. For the next seven years Harrell would have the power to produce albums with MCA Music Entertainment Group and to feature his recording artists in film and television productions for Universal Pictures and Universal Television respectively.

With the power to produce for music, film, and television, Harrells mission remained the same: I want to tell stories about everyday black people that will have a wide reaching appealexperiences that are African American, but feelings that are universal. Working with MCA/Universal allowed Harrell to nearly triple Uptowns staff and to set up satellite offices in Los Angeles.

With ever increasing responsibilities and less time for being in the mix, Harrell staffed both his New York City and Los Angeles Uptown offices with young producers and vice-presidents who could keep him connected to the pulse of the urban African American lifestyle. The swell of funds and staff also allowed Uptown to thrive with the incorporation of in-house video, publicity, and marketing departments.

In the Game

Uptown Entertainment immediately launched development of a full slate of film and television projects, many featuring Uptown recording artists. For example, it was not long before Uptown Entertainment sold a pilot to Fox Television starring Heavy D as a rapping dad. A drama called Flavor, a variety/comedy show similar to In Living Color, and a feature film starring the soulful singers of En Vogue were also soon in the works.

Uptowns musical prowess was celebrated in 1993, when Music Televisions (MTV) showcased Uptown recording artists Mary J. Blige, Father MC, Heavy D, Christopher Williams, and Jodeci on the cable networks popular acoustic show, Unplugged. Not surprisingly, this was the first time that the popular show had devoted its entire timeslot to artists of a single record label. The show was such a success that it was released as a video.

In addition to creating overwhelming pressures to keep increasing profits, Harrells success reaped the financial rewards necessary to build the lifestyle he dreamed of during his childhood in the housing projects of the Bronx. In 1988, Harrell recalled. I was rollin. I was inthe game. I was coming into spots and it was going on. I was all over the country, all over the world. I was 20 years old. The dough was flowing. I bought a house. Bought a BMW. Two. Was Happy. It was the beginning of the game. I was crazy happy. Crazy happy. He enjoyed his success thoroughly, earned a reputation as the premiere party-giver on the east coast. However, he realized that with success came a responsibility, for, as he told I want to show kids what can be achieved if they never take no for an answer.

Harrells extraordinary rise from the housing projects of the Bronx to his leadership role in the music, film, and television industries prompted the inevitable reflection on just what accounts for such success. I n large part he credited his success with being both a rap artist and an entrepreneur. As a former performer Harrell gained a rapport with musicians that some industry executives are lacking. He has been perceived as a peer of musicians, an approachable ally.

From Uptown to Motown

Harrells entrepreneurial savvy may have also found its roots in his youth in the Bronx. Chris Albrecht of Home Box Office (HBO) Independent Productions told Vanity Fair that Harrells business edge was reflective of his street-fighter sense of survival. In essence, Harrells success stemmed from fierce determination. As he told Vanity Fair, I can do just about anything I want. Its a matter of will. Yeah, I guess you have to be talented and smart and stuff, and I hope Ive proven that. But I know, at this point in my career, the doors of opportunity are open. As long as I have the desire and the will to want to do it, a lot of different things will get ready to happen. One door of opportunity was to the presidents office of Motown Records. In October of 1995 Harrell was appointed president/CEO of Motown, a deal reportedly worth some $20 million, in an effort to update that labels image and utilize Harrells considerable skills in spotting new talent. Alain Levy, head of Motown parent PolyGram, told Billboards J. R. Reynolds, The music business is driven by A&R (artists and repertory), especially at Motown. Andre has shown that he knows how to build artists. As for Harrells liberal use of corporate funds and relative inexperience in running a major company, Levy told Ronald Grover of Business Week, His job is to find the acts, ours is to give him the boundaries.

As for Harrell, he knew his job was to put Motown back on the musical map. Im gonna bring back real soul music, he told New Yorks Kiki Mason. I want young people with old voices that reek of life experience, of pain. Steps Harrell planned on taking were to move Motowns headquarters from Los Angeles to New York, and to open A&R offices in Atlanta and Detroit, the home of Motown from its founding in 1958 until 1972. Harrell also said he was planning to go back to the streets to find the next generation of black artists. Ive created stars and celebrities, he told Mason. Now I want to make superstars.

Sources

Billboard, May 11, 1991; December 12, 1992; June 20, 1992; October 14, 1995.

Black Enterprise, August 1993.

Business Week, November 6, 1995.

Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1996.

Ebony, November 1991; October 1993.

Gentlemens Quarterly, April 1993.

New York, October 23, 1995.

Upscale, September/October 1993.

Vanity Fair, September 1993.

Vibe, December/January 1994.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from press materials from Uptown Entertainment and Motown Record Company.

Lisa Fredricks

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"Harrell, Andre." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Harrell, Andre." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/harrell-andre

"Harrell, Andre." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/harrell-andre

Harrell, Andre 1962(?)–

Andre Harrell 1962(?)

Musician and media industry executive

At a Glance

Filled the Urban Void

Joined With MCA

In the Game

Sources

I am a lifestyle entertainment entrepreneur, professed Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Entertainment in Upscale magazine. Im promoting the whole spectrum of black lifestyles, from the teenage street hip-hop lifestyle to an adult, upwardly mobile black lifestyle. With his record label, Uptown Records, Harrell promoted the black lifestyle by catapulting former unknowns Jodeci, Heavy D and The Boyz, Mary J. Blige, and Al B. Sure! to stardom. Upscale magazine noted that Harrell quickly gained a reputation as having a golden finger on the pulse of whats hot in the music industry, and left the entire entertainment industry standing at rapt attention, waiting for his next successful move.

While the chances for any marked success have been minuscule for most young record producers, Harrell demonstrated such an uncanny ability to package and market young black singers that he was offered a seven-year, $50 million deal to produce projects with MCA Music Entertainment Group and Universal Picturesan astounding deal rivaled only by those offered to megastars Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Born Andre ONeal Harrell to a supermarket foreman and a nurses aid, Harrell grew up in the housing projects of the Bronx, New York. While both of his parents labored for their meager existence, young Harrell was somehow confident of a promising future. Though he was a self-described poor, inner-city kid, he explained in Vanity Fair, I grew up thinking wonderful things could happen, I always believed Id have a wonderful life.

Harrells 16th year was a watershed period in his life. While his parents were divorcing, he teamed up with high-school buddy Alonzo Brown to form the successful rap duo Dr. Jekyll (Harrell) and Mr. Hyde (Brown). For their first performance, the duo stood atop chairs and rapped for a crowd of 40 that had gathered at the DeWitt Clinton Housing Project. In Gentlemans Quarterly Harrell said he turned to rapping because, I couldnt play basketball well enough to be on the starting team, but I could rap well enough. In fact, Harrell and Brown rapped so well that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde enjoyed three top 20 hits: Genius Rap, Fast Life, and AM/FM.

The duo became popular weekend rappers, but having set his sights on becoming a newscaster, Harrell went on to study communications and business management at the Bronxs Lehman College. After three years, however, he dropped out and went to work selling air time for a local radio station. In

At a Glance

Born Andre ONeal Harrell, c. 1962. Education: Attended Lehman College.

With Alonzo Brown, formed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (rap duo); Rush Management, New York City, vice-president and general manager, c. 1985; Uptown Records, New York, NY, founder and president, 1987-92; Uptown Entertainment, New York, NY, president, 1992.

Addresses: Office Uptown Entertainment, 100 Universal Plaza, Bungalow 466-B, Universal City, CA 91608.

1983, Harrell met Russell Simmons, the founder of Rush Management, a company that launched the careers of cutting-edge black street artists. In time, Simmons persuaded Harrell to come to work for Rush at a mere $200 per week. Within his two years at Rush, Harrell became vice-president and general manager, playing a pivotal role in building the careers of artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Whoodini.

Filled the Urban Void

While at Rush, Harrell became increasingly aware of a void in the marketplace for a certain black lifestylea very urban, young adult, cool vibe. Rush did a phenomenal job of promoting the raw, black street sound, but Harrell saw another black sound being overlooked: the more subtle sound coming from the marriage of rhythm and blues with hip-hop. The black lifestyle, Harrell saw, was being expressed in extremes: in the street culture of many cutting-edge black musicians and in the bourgeois culture represented, somewhat unrealistically, in televisions Cosby Show.

Harrell felt he could bridge the gap between street and middle to upper class. I had more of an understanding of what this vibe was all about than any other major label executive I knew, he commented. He left Rush Management to launch Uptown Records, a company that would fill the void in urban black music. Longtime friend Nelson George explained in Gentlemans Quarterly that Harrell made music for the type of people he knew growing up, the black bus driver from Queens [New York] who wears suits on weekends and goes to clubs to pick up girls. Harrell argued that the mediaespecially white criticsthink it is boring when black people sing about being in love or paying bills. Uptown was created to market music reflective of a more mainstream black lifestyle.

Harrell took Uptown through a series of successes. By 1988, MCA was courting Harrell and offered him a $75,000 label deal. His first release under MCA, a compilation of works by then-unknown artists, was a huge success. Harrell followed up this surprise hit by producing Heavy Ds platinum album Livin Large. He built on these first successes with hit albums from Al B Sure! and Guy. It became almost commonplace to see Uptown releases go gold or platinum, as the enterprise became a major force in the music industry.

Joined With MCA

With the growing popularity of its artists, Uptowns success continued until 1992, when MCA offered Harrell a $50 million multimedia deal. The nearly unprecedented arrangement opened up Harrells creative vistas to include film and television. Uptown Records thus was renamed Uptown Entertainment. For the next seven years Harrell would have the power to produce albums with MCA Music Entertainment Group and to feature his recording artists in film and television productions for Universal Pictures and Universal Television respectively.

With the power to produce for music, film, and television, Harrells mission remained the same as he told Black Enterprise: I want to tell stories about everyday black people that will have a wide reaching appealexperiences that are African American, but feelings that are universal. Working with MCA/Universal allowed Harrell to nearly triple Uptowns staff and to set up satellite offices in Los Angeles.

With ever increasing responsibilities and less time for being in the mix, Harrell staffed both his New York City and Los Angeles Uptown offices with young producers and vice-presidents who could keep him connected to the pulse of the urban African American lifestyle. The swell of funds and staff also allowed Uptown to thrive with the incorporation of in-house video, publicity, and marketing departments.

Uptown Entertainment immediately launched development of a full slate of film and television projects, many featuring Uptown recording artists. For example, it was not long before Uptown Entertainment sold a pilot to Fox Television starring Heavy D as a rapping dad. A drama called Flavor, a variety/comedy show similar to In Living Color, and a feature film starring the soulful singers of En Vogue were also soon in the works.

Uptowns musical prowess was celebrated in 1993, when Music Television (MTV) showcased Uptown recording artists Mary J. Blige, Father MC, Heavy D, Christopher Williams, and Jodeci on the cable networks popular acoustic show, Unplugged. Not surprisingly, this was the first time that the popular show had devoted its entire timeslot to artists of a single record label. The show was such a success that it was released as a video.

In the Game

In addition to creating overwhelming pressures to keep increasing profits, Harrells success reaped the financial rewards necessary to build the lifestyle he dreamed of during his childhood in the housing projects of the Bronx. In 1988, Harrell recalled in Vanity Fair: I was rollin. I was in the game. I was coming into spots and it was going on. I was all over the country, all over the world. I was 20 years old. The dough was flowing. I bought a house. Bought a BMW. Two. Was Happy. It was the beginning of the game. I was crazy happy. Crazy happy. He enjoyed his success thoroughly, earned a reputation as the premiere party-giver on the east coast. However, he realized that with success came a responsibility, for, as he told I want to show kids what can be achieved if they never take no for an answer.

Harrells extraordinary rise from the housing projects of the Bronx to his leadership role in the music, film, and television industries prompted the inevitable reflection on just what accounts for such success. In large part he credited his success with being both a rap artist and an entrepreneur. As a former performer Harrell gained a rapport with musicians that some industry executives are lacking. He has been perceived as a peer of musicians, an approachable ally.

Harrells entrepreneurial savvy may have also found its roots in his youth in the Bronx. Chris Albrecht of Home Box Office (HBO) Independent Productions told Vanity Fair that Harrells business edge was reflective of his street-fighter sense of survival. In essence, Harrells success stemmed from fierce determination. As he told Vanity Fair, I can do just about anything I want. Its a matter of will. Yeah, I guess you have to be talented and smart and stuff, and I hope Ive proven that. But I know, at this point in my career, the doors of opportunity are open. As long as I have the desire and the will to want to do it, a lot of different things will get ready to happen.

Sources

Billboard, May 11, 1991, pp. 21, 26; December 12, 1992, pp. 10, 83; June 20, 1992, pp. 8, 89.

Black Enterprise, August 1993, p. 74.

Ebony, November 1991, pp. 156, 16064; October 1993, p. 50.

Gentlemens Quarterly, April 1993, pp. 168-75, 245.

Upscale, September/October 1993, pp. 128129.

Vanity Fair, September 1993, pp. 18891, 23338.

Vibe, December/January 1994, pp. 703.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Uptown Entertainment press materials.

Lisa Fredricks

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