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Uptown Records was an American record label, founded by Andre Harrell in 1986. It went on to become one of the most popular hip-hop and R&B labels of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Featured on the roster were Guy, Heavy D & The Boyz, Father MC, Notorious B.I.G., Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Al B. Sure!, and Soul for Real amongst others.
|Parent company||Universal Music Group|
|Genre||R&B, Hip hop|
|Country of origin||U.S.|
|Location||New York City|
Founded in 1986 by one half of rap duo, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Andre Harrell. After securing distribution deal through MCA Records the compilation album, Uptown Is Kickin' It was released. Among the artists featured on the album were Heavy D & The Boyz and Marley Marl. By 1987, two debut albums by Heavy D and Al B. Sure! would be successful for the young label. Heavy D & The Boyz' Living Large would be certified Gold while Al B. Sure! Warner Bros distributed Uptown album In Effect Mode would have many hit singles, chart number seven on the R&B charts. In 1988, Guy featuring group member and producer Teddy Riley released their debut album, Guy. This album continued Uptown's hot streak as the album went number one and continued building upon the bubbling New jack swing sound created by Riley. Also in that same year, Uptown released the Capitol-distributed album from the Gyrlz Love Me or Leave Me.
Continued success followed the label with the release of Heavy D & The Boyz 1989 second album, Big Tyme, and Guys 1990's The Future. Tragedy would strike as Heavy D & The Boyz member, Trouble T Roy died that summer due to an accidental fall while out on tour. The spiritual third Heavy D album, Peaceful Journey was dedicated in his honor. By 1990, Sean "Puffy" Combs had started interning at Uptown and started working with newly signed acts Jodeci, Father MC and Mary J. Blige who had many hit singles on the R&B charts. Around the same time, Harrell was producing the film Strictly Business and its accompanying soundtrack.
In 1992, due to all of Uptown's success, MCA offered Harrell a multimedia deal, which involved film and television productions, which eventually led to the development of FOX's hit police drama series, New York Undercover (originally named Uptown Undercover), which aired from 1994-1998. Harrell also produced the 1991 comedy film Strictly Business, starring Tommy Davidson and Halle Berry. Uptown Records was subsequently renamed to Uptown Enterprises. 1992 also saw changes in the hip-hop and R&B musical landscape, which was changing towards a harder edge sound due to the popularity of gangsta rap. In keeping in step with the changing times, Mary J. Blige released her debut album, What's the 411?, on July 28, 1992. Dubbed the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, the success of her debut single, "You Remind Me" and others helped her album be certified three times Platinum.
By 1993, Uptown was the leading urban label. In February, Uptown artists Jodeci, Father MC, Mary J. Blige, Christopher Williams and Heavy D performed an acoustic set on MTV Unplugged. Taped at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California it was called Uptown Unplugged and released as both a home video and CD. Jodeci did a live cover of Stevie Wonder's "Lately" at the show and the song was released as single. It charted at both number one on the R&B charts and number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Later that spring they released the soundtrack to the hip-hop film Who's the Man? which featured The Notorious B.I.G.. Towards the end of 1993, Jodeci released their second album, Diary of a Mad Band.
In July 1993, Combs's contract was abruptly terminated due to tension between him and Harrell. Within two weeks of that dismissal he established Bad Boy Records and took The Notorious B.I.G. along with him. Without Combs, Uptown began to suffer. However, he remained involved as executive producer of Mary J. Blige's second album, My Life, which was released in late 1994 and was certified three times platinum. Tension started to exist between Uptown and its key acts Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. The two signed to Death Row Records label head Suge Knight's "West Coast Management" firm. Knight was able to upgrade their contracts by doubling their royalty rates, secure greater creative control and landed them substantial back payments. Despite these distractions, Uptown continued its success with Heavy D & The Boyz final album, Nuttin' But Love in 1994, which achieved platinum certification. In 1995, Candy Rain, the debut album from Soul For Real was released; as was The Show, the After Party, the Hotel, the final album by Jodeci for the label.
In late 1995, Harrell left Uptown as a result of being promoted to CEO of Motown Records. Heavy D., who had been executive vice president of Uptown, ascended to president and CEO. Upon the restructuring, more prominent acts Mary J. Blige and Jodeci transferred to the main MCA Records label. Shortly thereafter, distribution of Uptown switched from MCA to the newly formed Universal Records. In 1997, Heavy D. vacated his role of CEO, resulting in Uptown being absorbed into Universal in 1999. Today the Uptown Records name and catalog remains the property of Universal Music Group, but continues to be in hibernation.
- Al B. Sure! (Uptown/Warner Bros.)
- Brothers Black
- Christopher Williams
- Crystal Johnson
- Father MC
- Finesse & Synquis
- Groove B. Chill (Uptown/ A&M Records)
- Heavy D & The Boyz
- Horace Brown
- Jeff Redd
- Key West
- Little Shawn
- Lady Kazan
- Mary J. Blige
- Nesto Valesquez
- The Notorious B.I.G.
- Puff Daddy (A&R and intern)
- Ronnie Henson
- Soul for Real
- Lost Boyz
- The Gyrlz (Uptown/Capitol)
- Ultramagnetic MC’s (Uptown/ Next Plateau Records)
- Woody Rock