Koch Records has signed a joint venture deal with Suave Records, formerly Suave House. The partnership's roster includes artists 8Ball & MJG, Philadelphia MC Gillie Da Kid and Southern MC, Jiggolo.

Suave founder Tony Draper began the label in the early 1990s and Tennessee rap duo, 8Ball & MJG, were one of his first signings. Most recently, Draper orchestrated Ice Cube's independent 2006 release "Laugh Now, Cry Later," and negotiated The Clipse' recent five-year 50/50 deal with Columbia Records, where the duo will retain ownership of their masters.

"The saying 'I'm going independent' is all you hear now,'" says Draper. "But I've been independent since day one. I assembled the one-stop distributors like MS, Big State, CRD, City HALL, Maverne, and Southwest Wholesales, then I made Select-O-Hits the point guard to collect from those companies. All told, I sold 700,000 records before I ever got with a major label."

8Ball & MJG's "Greatest Hits," dropping May 13, will be the joint venture's first release.

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