Major to assist with Little Brother album.

Billboard.biz has exclusively learned that ABB Records has inked a production agreement with Atlantic Records for the next release from North Carolina-based rap group Little Brother.

The group's first release via the new deal will be its sophomore set, "The Minstrel Show," due in 2005.

The North Carolina-based trio -- DJ/producer 9th Wonder and MCs Phonte and Big Pooh -- first made its mark in the industry last year with the critically-acclaimed debut "The Listening" (ABB). Since, the group has been featured on "The Ladykillers" soundtrack, Pete Rock's "Soul Survivor II" and the Roots-inspired "True Notes, Vol. 1."

"Little Brother is one of those groups that, individually and collectively, has a musical vision and creativity that is bigger than the resources of an indie," says ABB Records president Beni B. "Given the current climate [of the industry], you look for opportunities to go into the big dance. So, when Craig [Kallman, Atlantic co-chairman/COO] wanted to do the deal, we stepped up."

"I am thrilled to welcome Little Brother to the Atlantic family," adds Kallman via a statement. "They are without a doubt one of the most creative and refreshing crews on the underground urban music scene. With two gifted rappers and a genius producer, they tell down-to-earth, authentic stories laid over brilliant soundscapes. With their roots in the music of classic Native Tongues artists, they are taking the art of hip-hop into the future with an inspired musical vision and a truly organic chemistry."

While the group has already begun recording "The Minstrel Show," they also have a host of other side projects as well. 9th Wonder has recently produced for artists like Memphis Bleek, Masta Ace and De La Soul. Meanwhile, Phonte teamed with Dutch producer Nicolay to form the Foreign Exchange -- a project that will debut later this month with "Connected" (BBE).