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|Parent company||Universal Music Group|
Warner Bros. Records (for Al B. Sure!'s albums)
Capitol Records (for The Gyrlz' album)
|Genre||Hip hop, R&B, new jack swing|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||New York City|
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, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, and Soul for Real amongst others.
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 and 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 struck 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. Uptown Records was subsequently renamed to Uptown Entertainment. Also in 1992, 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? in Summer 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 the year, Jodeci released their second album, Diary of a Mad Band.
In 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.
Even with all these distractions, Uptown managed to still put out some hit records. 1994's Heavy D & The Boyz final album, Nuttin' But Love charted at number one on the R&B charts and went platinum. In 1995, both Soul for Real's debut album, Candy Rain, and Jodeci's final Uptown album The Show, the After Party, the Hotel charted number one on the R&B chart.
By early 1996, Harrell was offered the chance to revive Motown and became their CEO. Heavy D moved into the role of Uptown's president and CEO. Even with this change, there was only some minor success with rap group Lost Boyz debut album, Legal Drug Money. The album sold well, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and number 1 on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. Not long afterwards, Uptown folded when Heavy D decided that running the company was not for him, choosing instead to pursue acting and performing. Mary J. Blige moved over to MCA Records to release her next album, Share My World (1997). The same year, Uptown was repositioned to operate under the newly established Universal Records umbrella. By 1999, Uptown Records was absorbed into Universal Records. Subsequently, many of Uptown's artists (with the exception of Monifah and Soul for Real) were moved to the MCA roster. Today the label is a part of Universal Motown Republic Group, but remains defunct.
- Al B. Sure!
- Christopher Williams
- Father MC
- Finesse & Synquis
- Heavy D & The Boyz
- Horace Brown
- Jeff Redd
- Little Shawn
- Lost Boyz
- Mary J. Blige
- Soul for Real
- The Gyrlz