Minneapolis-based hip-hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment has joined the Warner Music Group's Independent Label Group for North America distribution. The imprint, which has released albums from the likes of Atmosphere and Soul Position, among others, was previously distributed by Navarre Corp.

The Independent Label Group will assume control of the Rhymesayers catalog, which will be handled by the major's independent distributor, the Alternative Distribution Alliance. The first Rhmyesayers release via the new arrangement will be Brother Ali's "Undisputed Truth," due April 10.

Rhymesayers co-founder Brent "Siddiq" Sayers says the label group appealed to him because he'll have access to major label services at his discretion. There is an upstreaming component to the deal, but there is no automatic sales point at which a Rhymesayers artist will move to a Warner-affiliated major, says Sayers.

"If we have someone who wants to be on a major label, we can, in fact, do that," he says. "But if we have someone, like Atmosphere, who does not want to do that, we can keep doing what we're doing and bring in some select [promotional/marketing] services."

The Independent Label Group is comprised of WMG's Asylum Records, East West Records and Cordless Recordings. East West president Fred Feldman worked closely with Rhymesayers on the release of Atmosphere's "God Loves Ugly," when Feldman headed Fat Beat Records.

"They encompass what we look for an indie label," he says. "They have that entrepreneurial spirit. They've built a great thing in 10 years, and I've been a fan for a while. They bring a punk rock feel to do what they do when you look at how their acts tour."

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