Devotees described him as impeccable, visionary and “pure class.” For some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, Andre Harrell, founder of Uptown Records, personified the best of the people making moves behind-the-scenes in music.
Harrell died Friday at the age 59, the Associated Press reported. He built the careers of artists including Jodeci and Mary J. Blige and was also known as the executive who gave Sean Combs his first break.
Artists who became starts in the golden 1990s of era of slick, mainstreaming R&B offered gratitude and condolences. “Whether we knew it or not, he had such a huge influence on the R&B/hip-hop my generation grew up loving,” wrote John Legend on Twitter. “He signed and mentored so many great artists, made so much great music happen, helped shape the culture.” Mariah Carey tweeted an emotional and emoji-filled farewell: “My heart is breaking.”
Missy Elliott described meeting Harrell in the 1990s and how he always encouraged her to write music. “Your name sits high,” she tweeted. “Every time you saw me you told me to keep writing!”
Others followed suit, many with candid photographs of backstage moments with the producer:
“You were the beginning for so many and a genuine positive energy through it all,” Usher wrote on Instagram. “I salute you KING!!”
“The dude that was always humbly [calling] the shots with all the good ideas,” said Erykah Badu. “I salute one of the smartest visionaries of the culture of our time.”
“INSPIRING is not a word to simply throw around. He was a true pioneer and visionary my heart goes out to his family today especially his son,” wrote filmmaker Robert Townsend.
“He had impeccable vision ... He was pure class,” posted rapper MC Hammer. “His energy, confidence and swag [were] contagious.”
Sen. Kamala Harris and Rev. Al Sharpton paid their respects to Harrell on Twitter, while rapper Swizz Beats posted multiple remembrances of him on Instagram. Questlove’s Instagram features an extended post about a man who “redefined the party!”
Harrell started his career at Def Jam Records under co-founder Russell Simmons. On Saturday, Simmons called Harrell a “best friend,” and praised him for a sense of selflessness in an industry not always known for its kindness.
“So many can say they are successful because Andre Harrell gave them their start,” Simmons wrote. “He was so beloved because he made his living uplifting others.”