Andre Harrell Explains How Heavy D Became The Foundation For Uptown Records (Video)
While record labels like Def Jam and Bad Boy are often celebrated for their contributions to music, and rightly so, the company that bridged the two is often overlooked. Uptown Records was founded in 1986 by Andre Harrell, one half of the Rap group Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and a former executive at Def Jam. At Uptown, Harrell would go on to launch the careers of performers like Mary J. Blige, Guy, Jodeci, Al B. Sure! and even The Notorious B.I.G., who made his major label debut on Uptown’s soundtrack for Who’s The Man? However, Uptown’s foundation was built on the broad shoulders of the late, great Dwight Myers, also known as Heavy D.
Harrell recently detailed the beginnings of Uptown Records, as part of an episode of BET’s Inside The Label. In a precursor to what would eventually happen with Harrell and Uptown’s star intern, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Harrell, who was working at Def Jam, ultimately left the company because he had an artist, in which he believed, who did not fit Dej Jam’s aesthetic. “Def Jam had built a sound. Loud, abrasive, aggressive, alternative music. Then, Andre comes in with ‘Mr. Big Stuff.’ I’m like ‘What am I going to do with that?! What is that shit?! We don’t do that here,'” said Def Jam co-founder, Russell Simmons.
As Puffy would do years later with Biggie, in launching Bad Boy, Andre left with Heavy D to forge his own path. “So, Russ wasn’t interested. I was like ‘I’m gonna go ahead and make something musical and fly.’ So, I was like ‘I’m quittin’. I’m quittin’ and starting a record company,” said Harrell.
From there, as they say, the rest was history, as Uptown went on to become one of the most successful record companies in history, not only shaping the musical landscape, but an entire mentality of a generation.