Rhymesayers sign deal with Warners

class=img_thumbleft>Influential Minneapolis-based rap label Rhymesayers Entertainment has joined Warner Music Group's Independent Label Group, signing a distribution deal through ILG's Alternative Distribution Alliance (which has one of its three offices in Minneapolis). The arrangment, which kicks off with the April 10 release of Brother Ali's The Undisputed Truth, is unusual for the amount of discretion and control given the smaller label. "Basically, we can do whatever we want with each artist," says Rhymesayers co-founder Brent "Siddiq" Sayers, speaking today on his cell phone. "We can keep things as simple as running things through ADA, or bigger records through Warner Distribution. Or we can, at a price, bring in additional services, marketing, sales promotions. Or we can go all the way to other end of the spectrum and put an artist in a situation where it could be 'upstreamed' [signed and fully backed] by the major label...

"It puts everything at our disposal," Siddiq continues. "Take an Atmosphere. If Sean [Daley, of Atmosphere] wanted to be on a major, which he has never before, but if he wanted to be, we basically could roll into a major label deal. Or we could do things the way we've been doing, but we could bring in a larger sales team at an increased percentage, so we'd pay a little bit higher of a percentage. It just kind of opens up the door. I've compared it to, the last ten years we've been building houses with hammer and nails, and now we have a whole woodshed and tools to do the same job."

Rhymesayers Entertainment--which releases music by Atmosphere, Brother Ali, MF Doom, Soul Position, Felt, P.O.S., Eyedea & Abilities, Psalm One, Boom Bap Project, and many other local and national artists--will now have access to the services of companies under Warner's ILG umbrella, including Asylum, East West, and Cordless Recordings. Siddiq calls the deal "unique," but offers a comparison to the situation of indie label Fueled by Ramen, which utilized ADA for new artists before "upstreaming" Gym Class Heroes to Atlantic. "When you look at Gym Class Heroes, it's not coincidence that after they're upstreamed, they're all over TRL. The major then takes over."

Rhymesayers have been nationally distributed for years, well before Warners came calling. Vinyl releases have been handled since 2000 by Fat Beats, an arrangement that continues today. Fat Beats also picked up two Rhymesayers CDs for distribution, Atmosphere's 2002 album God Loves Ugly and Soul Position's 8,000,000 Stories of the following year, while Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities released one CD each with Epitaph: 2003's Seven's Travels and 2004's E&A, respectively. (Those discs will continue to be distributed through Epitaph.) Then, two years ago, Navarre began distributing the entire Rhymesayers catalogue, including new albums such as Bluprint's 1988, the solo debut by the Micranots' I Self Devine, and the latest Atmosphere. With the two-year deal expiring this month, Rhymesayers turned to Warners.

"It's nothing against Navarre," says Siddiq. "It just got to a point where technology is changing, and for us to be allied with someone who is ahead of the curve and is thinking ten years down the road because of those changes, it's invaluable for us to be affiliated with that. And to do so on our own terms, you can't do better than that."

More on the story here, and here, and here.