How Andre Harrell Prepared Son Gianni for Life Without Him Long Before He Passed

The news of Uptown Records founder, Andre Harrell, has shaken the music community to the core. The man responsible for artists like Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Heavy D & The Boyz, Jodeci, and more, died on May 8 at the age of 59. His cause of death is unknown at this time and he leaves behind one child, his son, Gianni. It likely didn’t feel this way at the time, but Andre had been preparing Gianni for life without him for years.

Andre Harrell did more than discover artists

Gianni Harrell and Andre Harrell
Gianni Harrell and Andre Harrell | Johnny Nunez/WireImage

As the music community mourns the loss of Andre Harrell, his legacy remains as, arguably, one of the most important voices of our generation. Andre’s career spans over three decades.

From his “humble beginnings at Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons, to the founding of Uptown Records/Enterprises to the (then) unknown artists such as Diddy, Harrell’s contribution to Motown Records and hip hop, in general, is infinite.

Without Harrell’s vision, there’d be no Diddy. There’d be no Revolt cable channel and music conference, which plays “100 percent hip-hop and R&B programming,” according to Andre. And, there’d be no lifestyle and hip-hop integration to inspire and influence fans in the ways we see in the mainstream now.

No doubt, Andre’s work far exceeds hip-hop, as confirmed by his numerous projects. He received the Cultural Excellence Award from the National Action Network and BET’s Culture Creators Award, all while keeping a modest attitude about it all.

While his career milestones are impressive enough, there’s one thing, more than the rest, that offered Andre a sense of pride — his son, Gianni.

Andre passed childhood lessons onto Gianni

Just as Andre accepted a multimedia deal with MCA Music Entertainment Group in 1992, he went on to develop Fox’s police drama, New York Undercover. The series — deemed “the best cop show no one talks about” — aired from 1994-1998 with stellar ratings and critical acclaim.

During the first season of New York Undercover, Andre welcomed his son, Gianni Credle-Harrell, into the world with music attorney, Wendy Credle. Andre remained busy, renaming Uptown Records to Uptown Enterprises with his artists’ work featured in multiple feature-length and TV productions.

Still, Andre touched on lessons he learned growing up — things he wanted to instill in Gianni, who is also Diddy’s godson. In 2017, Andre took part in Reuters’ Life Lessons series, where he explained his advice as a music mogul, and father.

“Do something that makes you feel happy, so it doesn’t feel like working,” he said, explaining his father’s work in a Bronx produce market left him dissatisfied and unhappy.

“That experience made me move toward something I really wanted to do because otherwise I would feel trapped like him. Sometimes negative experiences can lead you in a positive direction,” he said.

It goes without saying, this is likely the hardest experience of all but with Andre’s guidance, Gianni might find his own positive spin to transform his grief into joy.

Here’s Andre’s final piece of advice for his only son

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A BET Networks production, Uptown, is set to be released in 2020. The three-part scripted mini-series is said to “bring the story of Uptown Records to life and celebrate the indelible imprint the label has made on the industry, transforming the sound, face, and business of hip-hop and R&B,” according to BET Networks president Scott Mills.

The news, however exciting, still didn’t compare to the love Andre had for Gianni. In that same Reuters series, Andre offered one last bit of advice, geared to his only child saying, “Right now Gianni is my No. 1 project.”

“I try to tell him that youth is for doing it, and doing it right now. So figure out what you love, and then get to work. Then, when you are my age, you can sit back and call the shots,” he said.

Our thoughts are with all who knew and loved Andre Harrell, specifically Gianni.