We always talk about how important Black labels are to our culture. Well Uptown Records was that for a lot of our legends in the R&B & Hip-Hop game. Launched through a deal with MCA Records at the rise of the 80s crack epidemic, Music was a way out for the label’s earliest acts.
How does one describe the sound of Uptown? It’s basically soul with hip-hop flavor! I mean look at Jodeci. Mary. Al B. Sure! Heavy D & The Boyz. & those are just HALF of the acts that made Uptown a house hold name.
New Jack Swing was also birthed thanks to Guy’s Teddy Riley..& the label took it to another level. Uptown was the definition of black excellence, & we have to thank Andre Harrell for that. Harrell was a modern day Berry Gordy during the glory days of Uptown. He also ventured into various media forms like film, television and entertainment mediums to make Black America see the representation we deserved.
Although the label has been defunct since 1999, it’s legacy is cemented in History as Hip-Hop’s first major label.
This post will discuss the artists we made Uptown a huge deal during the late 80s-mid 90s:
Heavy D & The Boyz:
Members: Dwight Arrington “Heavy D” Myers, Glen “G-Whiz” Parrish, Troy “Trouble T. Roy” Dixon, Edward “Eddie F” Ferrell.”
Known for: Now That We Found Love, Don’t You Know, Mr. Big Stuff, We Got Our Own Thang, Somebody For Me, Is It Good To You.
Heavy D & The Boyz was the first act signed to Uptown. With Heavy as the sole rapper, Eddie F as the DJ, & T-Roy & G-Wiz as the background dancers. Heavy D was one of the greatest rappers to ever live and his presence in music is terribly missed. RIP Heavy & T-Roy.
Members: Teddy Riley, Aaron Hall, Damion Hall, Timmy Gatling.
Known for: Groove Me, Teddy’s Jam, I Like, Piece of my Love, My Fantasy, Spend The Night, Let’s Chill, D-O-G Me Out, Round & Round (Merry-Go Round of Love.
Guy was one of the best bands on the R&B scene. Their debut album was released June 1988 & would later become triple platinum. Guy easily became very important to the Uptown sound with their new jack swing bops and the ballads that made us fall in love with them.
Al B. Sure!:
Known for: Nite and Day, Off on Your Own (Girl,) If I’m Not Your Lover, Rescue Me, Killing Me Softly, Hotel California, Missunderstanding, No Matter What You Do, Had Enuf?
Al B. Sure was one of the best singer-songwriters/producers during the New Jack Swing era. His signature song Nite & Day is one of my favorite songs EVER. He gave Uptown their first male R&B balladeer. The King of Romance.
Known for: One Night Stand, Treat Them Like They Want to Be Treated, I’ll Do 4 U, Lisa Baby, I’ve Been Watching You, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. On & On, R&B Swinger.
Father MC was one of the rappers on the label to have success in the 90s. His flow was impeccable & music is actually worth listening to. I’m going to need y’all to give my mans his flowers. Side note: we were introduced to Jodeci & Mary through his music!
Members: Donald “DeVanté Swing” DeGrate, Dalvin “Mr. Dalvin” DeGrate, Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey, Joel “JoJo” Hailey.
Known For: Forever My Lady, Come & Talk to Me, Lately, Stay, I’m Still Waiting, Gotta Love, Cry for You, What about Us, Feenin, My Heart Belongs To You, Freekin’ You, Love U 4 Life, Get On Up.
Jodeci is not only one of the most influential groups from the glory days of the 90s, but the BEST R&B group of all time. Enough said.
Known for: Dreamin’, Every Little Thing U Do, Talk to Myself, Good Luvin’, Please, Please, Please.
Christopher Williams is music royalty. The nephew of the great Ella Fitzgerald and cousin of Al. B Sure, Christopher’s sole album on the Uptown label is flawless! Also, his cover of Teddy Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me” is EVERYTHING.
The Notorious B.I.G.:
Known for: Party & Bullshit.
Big wasn’t on Uptown long speaking that he left with Diddy when he was fired from Uptown and he formed his Bad Boy label…but his only single with the label is iconic alone.
Mary J. Blige:
Known for: Real Love, Be Happy, My Life, Don’t Go, I’m Going Down, Sweet Thing, Reminisce, What’s The 411, Mary’s Joint, I’m The Only Woman.
Mary Jane Blige. That’s it. That’s the statement. Mary signed to Uptown and released her debut album in the summer of 92, & instantly became the Queen of Hip-Hop soul. Mary reigns supreme because she’s makes music that’s relatable to the people. The ups and downs of love. And do NOT get me started with My Life In November of 94! THE LEGEND JUMPED OUT.
Known for: I Found Lovin’, Love High, You Called and Told Me, Come and Get Your Lovin’
Jeff Redd is so underrated when it comes to topics about New Jack Swing.
Soul for Real:
Members: Christopher Sherman “Choc” Dalyrimple, Andre “Dre” Lamont Dalyrimple, Brian “Bri” Augustus Dalyrimple and Jason “Jase” Oliver Dalyrimple.
Known for: Candy Rain, Every Little Thing I Do.
Soul for Real snapped with their debut album. Essential 90s record.
Known for: Touch It, I Miss You (Come Home,) It’s Alright, You.
Another protege of Heavy D, Monifah is an amazing singer. She’s so underrated to me.
Known for: Before We Start, This is How We Do, Danger Zone, Stop It.
McGruff only released one solo album for Uptown, and he didn’t disappoint!
Known for: One for the Money, Taste Your Love, How Can We Stop, Things We Do For Love.
Horace is another one of R&B’s finest!
Sean “Diddy” Combs:
Diddy was hired as an intern for Uptown, overseeing a lot of projects for the label. Ultimately he was fired..which prompted him to create his own label Bad Boy Records, which launched the careers of The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, Total, and many others!
Kudos to the one and only Andre Harrell! Starting his career as a member of the rap group Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Harrell went on to launch one of the most important Black labels. Uptown will always be remembered for being one of the labels who wanted to represent our culture 100%. We’re eternally grateful. Andre Harrell tragically passed away on May 8th, 2020. His presence in the music industry will be terribly missed. -MJ.