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Andre Harrell Talks Legacy, R&B Groups, Hamilton Park, Finding New Talent (Exclusive Interview)

Andre Harrell has made a name for himself in the music industry over the years for not only discovering talent, but developing artists and turning them into stars. After directly having a hand in the success of Guy, Jodeci, Soul 4 Real and Puff Daddy, to name a few, Andre can now add Hamilton Park to that list. At the listening event for Hamilton Park’s debut EP, YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to catch up with this industry legend. We talked to him about discovering Hamilton Park, what leads him to sign talent, the void of r&b groups today, and more.

YouKnowIGotSoul: We’re here at the listening event for Hamilton Park’s new EP. While they were addressing the audience, one of the things they said that caught my attention was “Andre has seen this before” so they felt comfortable with you. Have you seen this before?

Andre Harrell: Well when it comes to a group of young men singing soulfully, I might have seen it once with Guy, I might have seen it once with Jodeci. I might have even seen it with Soul 4 Real. So yea, I’ve seen it.

YKIGS: Tell us what it is in Hamilton Park that made you want to sign them above all of the other talent you’ve seen?

AH: I thought that they were the most polished and ready to go. I like that Hamilton Park had been together before they met me and worked out all of the kinks. They had a relationship and a commitment to each other and had been excited about the journey. I was interested in the fact that they learned to sing in the church and they were athletes, they met on the basketball court. I think that gave them a rugged male swag that women would really like, especially with them singing about love.

YKIGS: They just released their “Hamilton Park EP” and they have a cover of a Guy song on there. Since you discovered Guy, was that your idea to have them do the song?

AH: Uhhhh….I might have given them the idea. *Laughs*

YKIGS: How do you feel they did with it?

AH: I think they did a great job. I think people will be excited to hear “You Got a Piece of My Love”. We haven’t heard that in 15 or 17 years. I’m sure when this generation hears it, they’re not even going to know it’s a remake.

YKIGS: Do you feel like there’s a void currently in r&b when it comes to groups?

AH: There’s a total void in r&b. I’m going to leave it right there, I’m not going to get into the why.

YKIGS: Well that was my next question, why do you think it is?

AH: I think r&b is a bridge kind of thing in the sense that I was raised in the Motown era, I became a rapper when I was 15 so I had the hip hop and the r&b. So when it was my time to put my company together, I heard music in that way since I had lived both generations of it. I think the generation that we are in now, the young people that are making records, I don’t think they have enough sensibility about church music, enough sensibility about r&b music from back in the Isley Brothers, The Temptations, the Diana Ross era. I think they’re moving all of their r&b off of rap records. I don’t think they have the emotional wherewithal to talk about love because rap talks about what goes wrong and how I’m going to treat you when it goes wrong, as opposed as “I want you, I’m going to be right with you and I’m going to take care of you and love you forever.” That language has somehow got lost with this generation. I think because I’m in a unique position to have bridged the gap between r&b and hip hop, it lets me know that it can be done but the language has to change.

YKIGS: You discovered Hamilton Park down in Atlanta when you were doing the Star Search Talent Content. What is the decision process like for you when you find talent and you’re deciding over whether or not to sign an act?

AH: Three things. One, is there a void in the marketplace for something. In this case, is there a void for young males who sing r&b? For a group of males who sing r&b, there are none. That was part of my decision making process. Then, do they do it well? That was the other part, I thought they did it well.

YKIGS: I don’t know if you’ll admit to this, but in all of these years you’ve been at these labels making decisions over which acts to sign, has there ever been an act you’ve passed up on that went on to become a star somewhere else?

AH: Not that I passed on no. There is only one act that I didn’t get that I wanted, that was Tyrese. That was it.

YKIGS: Talk about the promotion you’re currently doing now trying to find new artists.

AH: I’m looking for talent. I started my label Harrell Records. I have a global talent search on the internet on BlazeTrack.com called “Andre Harrell’s Global Talent Search”. The thing about BlazeTrack.com is it’s a new way to get discovered. It’s very difficult for people who come from Texas, people who come from Nebraska, people who come from Oakland to get a meeting with me. They have no idea how to reach me, they don’t have anybody to say this person is great. They are not in the game at all. What BlazeTrack gives you the opportunity to do is it gives you a guaranteed meeting. You go to Blazetrack, you upload your music, you have four minutes of music that you can upload. If you want to, you can upload three songs, two choruses, two verses. You can talk to me and make a video explaining your musical journey. I will talk to you for one minute telling you how I like it, why I like it, what you can do better. If I really like it, I’ll call you up and bring you in for a meeting. I’m running a contest through that system BlazeTrack.com. It started in October and goes through November 30th, and I’m announcing the winner of January 11th. I’m giving out a record deal and I’m giving out a publishing deal. So it’s for writers, singers, rappers, producers.