Andre Harrell: Found in Translation

If you were making a list of Hip-Hop moguls to clone, you would definitely find Andre Harrell in the top five. After 20-plus years in the music industry, he certainly isn’t slowing down. He is continually striving to take Hip-Hop, a culture he can take a certain amount of credit for, to new markets. His […]

If you were making a list of Hip-Hop moguls to clone, you would definitely find Andre Harrell in the top five. After 20-plus years in the music industry, he certainly isn’t slowing down. He is continually striving to take Hip-Hop, a culture he can take a certain amount of credit for, to new markets.

His new endeavor is allowing rappers to take their lyrics beyond the boundaries of their native tongue, turning them into multi-lingual rappers. Thanks to a program called Voxonic, this technology can have your favorite rappers verses converted to any language, ‘Pac in Portuguese, Jay-Z in Swahili; whatever your pleasure, it’s all attainable.

Discussing two-ways and how multi-tasking is an attribute any aspiring Hip-Hopper needs to be up on, Andre Harrell jumped off the set of his ABC show, The One: Making a Music Star to talk to, about the distinctly American culture that’s never lost in translation. You have been made director of business development for Voxonic. When did you become aware of this company and how did you become involved in it?

Andre Harrell: I first heard about it three weeks ago, coming home from the Hamptons with my son Gianni at a 7-11. The guy looked like he worked in TV and was looking at me in wonderment after I gave him the friendly Black person look and I said, “Hi.” This guy was also with his father, he is 27 and he said, “You’re Andre Harell; I got your technology but nobody is paying attention to me,” and I asked him what it was. He had this technology that was able to translate rap artists from one language into another, so I went ahead and paid for my sons Hi-C soda, did that, went outside and he played me Fabolous in French and my mind started moving so fast I couldn’t even talk. I asked if I could have the CD and he said, “Yes,” so I said I would drive home and listen to it and call him tomorrow. You know I was imagining Puff rapping in Spanish and Jay-Z rapping in French, then I was imagining ring backs in different languages and then personal ring backs, you know like “This is Dre, I am not here but at the sound of the beep leave your name or holla, one,” and I asked my son if he would do that and he said, “Dad, I pay 4.99 for a screen-saver, course I would do that.” If we are using this technology for American artists, doesn’t this make it harder for artists from these countries where this technology will be welcomed, to breakthrough?

Andre Harrell: It is already restricted. America is the number One Pop cultural leader from Levis to Hip-Hop. We might not be the nicest on the computer, that might be someone else. But if you are talking about singing and dancing and blue jeans, that’s us. Your history is extensive in the game, you have seen a lot of things come and go and technology has moved in leaps and bounds, if you had to pinpoint one pivotal technological break through in terms of Hip-Hop culture what would it be?

Andre Harrell: The two-way. You see that in videos. That is all we do. Hip-Hop is a multi-task culture; I am listening to you, I am two-waying my man and I am answering my son and I am listening to the radio and saying “Who made that beat?” to my man driving, all that the same time. What about ring tones?

Andre Harrell: I think that’s cute. You know ring tones, they are an opportunity, a technology break through of something that you can make more money and can communicate better. I think DVD was a breakthrough but I don’t qualify that as being Hip-Hop, I qualify that with just being hot. Going back to Voxonic, have you tried it out yourself?

Andre Harrell: Of course, I am in French right now. Okay, so you are spitting in French, that’s crazy. So that leads me into asking you what happened with Jekyll and Hyde?

Andre Harrell: They are still living, it’s just that Hyde is down and Dr. Jekyll is carrying the ball for both of them. Mr. Hyde became a writer and tried to act like he’s an MC [laughing] but he just ain’t got no rhymes and I am carrying him now, he needs to lay in the back and have a drink. You know how in every group there is a better rapper? I am the better rapper now. When we were younger he was the better rapper. [laughing] But as the saying goes, fine wine gets better the older it gets.

Andre Harrell: You keep talking that talk young girl, I like that. Working on the TV show that you are right now what do you look for in up and coming artists?

Andre Harrell: We look for individuality, honesty, and a voice of this generation, you know the “now” time. What determines a voice of the now time in your estimation?

Andre Harrell: An opinion on a situation that a lot of people relate to, in an artistic way that is urgent and in a musical format. Do you find that there is an over abundance of artists out there right now?

Andre Harrell: Cookie-cutter artists, because the people who are making the decisions are afraid for their jobs and they wont take a chance on something different and everything is the same. If an angry record hits, we are going to be angry for ten years. Let’s have new options for society, why can’t everything be around at the same time? I just think that record companies are supposed to be a reflection of modern day attitudes and the more information that the generation of our time that we live in can receive. Obviously, they have more attitudes, just the kind we have been showing over the last seven years, it’s like there is not enough new options to me. You can only have a dress up and a dress down game. It took us ten years to find the button down; we used to start with the button down in elementary school. Now you are 35 and in a button down and it is high fashion…at 35? Everybody should be represented, back-packers, bi-racial, Lenny Kravitz types, “I’m poor and Momma left me” types, Farnsworth Bentley types, for the fun of it, for the art of it; Andre 3000 meets Andre 3001. I like Outkast in terms of they have two different, totally opposite points of view on record but they exist together. That’s an interesting life, you know my friend doesn’t have to scoop as many girls as me, and I don’t have to play ball like them; we can all be different types of winners in this world. All those different kinds of people deserve a voice; we all love differently, we all get upset about different things. The best understanding is when a multitude of attitudes are talked about and shared and equally discussed with some level of intelligence and celebration. Saying all this, what are your views on Hip-Hop right now?

Andre Harrell: I think it is getting ready to change, man. I think Kanye and Pharrell and just other artists are making it their own experience of this generation in time. I am here right now at ABC; so now I have to take my philosophy to network TV to a ground breaking cultural something or other. Was that why you got involved with the ABC project, the cultural barriers you talked on earlier?

Andre Harrell: Yes. Power to the people.

To listen to Andre Harrell rap in French go to