The Legacy Of Andre Harrell And Uptown Records Journalist and screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper talks about the life and legacy of Andre Harrell, the founder of Uptown Records, who died recently at the age of 59.

'He Revived R&B': The Legacy Of Andre Harrell And Uptown Records

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The music world is mourning the loss of one of hip-hop and R and B's most influential moguls, Andre Harrell. Memorials have been pouring in on social media and from friends and celebrities who worked with Harrell over the years, citing him and his record label, Uptown Records, as one of the most influential forces in the entertainment industry.

BARRY MICHAEL COOPER: Andre created Uptown Records as more than just a record company. It was a lifestyle brand. It was a movement.

GONYEA: That's Barry Michael Cooper. He's a journalist and screenwriter who met Harrell in 1987 while working on a story for Spin magazine. The two became fast friends and would eventually work on Harrell's memoir, which was never published.

COOPER: We bonded because of our love of film.

GONYEA: By that time Cooper had met Harrell, he had already finished a stint at Def Jam Records (ph), where he worked for another iconic music mogul, Russell Simmons.

COOPER: He learned everything from the top to the bottom - management, production, distribution - everything. And he wanted to take that and use that to create his own paradigm.

GONYEA: And he did. Harrell founded Uptown Records in 1986, where he created a home for artists who blended hip-hop and R and B. One of Harrell's biggest artists was a young vocalist from Yonkers named Mary J. Blige.

COOPER: What Andre did and he's unheralded for - he revived R and B. He revived R and B music. You know, let's take these hip-hop beats and puff. You know, let's go and do "Real Love."


MARY J BLIGE: (Singing) Real love, I'm searching for some real love.

COOPER: You know, put Mary in a hockey jersey and a baseball cap and the Doc Martens. Mary was the first ride-or-die chick.


BLIGE: (Singing) I thought you were the answer to the question in my mind...

GONYEA: Harrell also gave a young Sean Puffy Combs his first shot in the industry. He was an intern and would later work in Uptown's A and R department, where he discovered musical acts, including the Notorious B.I.G.


THE NOTORIOUS BIG: (Rapping) So what's it going to be? The real one, the fake one? You need a minute to think for whom you'd better take? What up? My time is up. Peace out...

COOPER: If there was no Andre Harrell, God rest his soul, there would be no Sean Combs. There would be no Jay-Z. There would be no Ruff Ryders. There would be no Murder Inc. There would be none of that.

GONYEA: And while Harrell will be remembered by many for helping pioneer the sound of new jack swing and Uptown Records, Cooper says his legacy is about so much more.

COOPER: Looking back at Andre, it was always bigger than the music. It was about the culture. It was like an extension of Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream. It was an extension of Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik Shabazz (ph), by any means necessary.

GONYEA: That's journalist and screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper remembering his friend Andre Harrell. The legendary music mogul died this week at the age of 59.


FATHER MC: (Singing) Well, excuse me. Let me let you know the time on how I feel and what's on my mind. It's you that I want to be in my life...

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