The 14th most important hip-hop record label of all time might be the most controversial on the list…
…but not because they didn’t put out dope music.
#14 Uptown Records
Uptown Records did not make its mark with rap music, though it was founded by former rapper Andre Harrell (one half of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and was home to some significant rappers. Uptown Records was extremely important to hip-hop culture for a few reasons. First and foremost, Uptown almost single-handedly redefined what “hip-hop music” meant. Prior to Uptown, “hip-hop music” was synonymous with rap. With artists like Jodeci, Mary J. Blige and Guy, Uptown invented (or at least brought to the masses) a genre called “hip-hop soul.” Fast forward 20 years later and a lot of rap (particularly mainstream rap) and R&B are nearly indistinguishable with rappers rhyming on R&B songs and R&B singers singing on rap songs, with much of it being called “hip-hop music.” Uptown also helped launch the career of Teddy Riley, one of the greatest producers of all time. And, of course, their flagship artist, the late great Heavy D, embodied all that the Uptown sound represented. Another contribution that Uptown made to hip-hop was birthing the career of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs who started his life in the music industry at Uptown as an intern (but more on him later). When you add that Uptown also released the first single by Biggie Smalls (when that was still his name) it’s hard to deny Uptown’s place in hip-hop record label history. Below is a playlist of some of Uptown’s music to further bolster the case. You’ll find music from Heavy D, Guy, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Biggie Smalls and Father MC.