Sony Music's The Orchard has inked a strategic partnership with Mass Appeal Records, one of the best known independent labels in hip-hop.
The agreement marks another aggressive deal in the US hip-hop space for Sony Music, following its acquisition of J Erving's Human Re-Sources in December.
Mass Appeal Records is co-owned by rap legend Nas, who will release his own new material via The Orchard as a result of the deal.
The news comes off the back of a big year for Nas, who recently won his first ever Grammy for Best Rap Album for his latest LP, 'King's Disease'.
Mass Appeal's full artist roster will have access to The Orchard's label and artist services, which include distribution, marketing, sync licensing, video services, data analysis, advertising, rights management, radio promotion, and more.
The deal brings Nas back to Sony Music, where via Columbia he released classic early records like 'Illmatic' (1994), 'It Was Written' (1996), and I Am…' (1999).
"This is a full circle moment for me," said Nas. "To come back to Sony Music with my own label is a major milestone."
"We see this multi-phase initiative as an opportunity to continue to push the culture forward, educate, and inspire. It's what we do it for, I couldn't be more excited."
The announcement brings to an end Mass Appeal Records' three-year global distribution relationship with Universal Music Group.
However, it doesn't mark the end of Mass Appeal's relationship with UMG completely: Mass Appeal Records is an arm of the main Mass Appeal company, which makes content (movies/TV/podcasts) as well as acting as an award-winning creative media partner for clients such as Sony Music, UMG, and Google.
UMG became a minority investor in the parent Mass Appeal company in 2017.
In addition, UMG and Mass Appeal continue to run Mass Appeal India together – a label which recently saw track "Chal Bombay" by priority signing DIVINE go 30X Platinum (yes, thirty times) in its home country. DIVINE's album, 'Kohinoor', recently went 20X Platinum in India too.
Today's news comes as Mass Appeal begins ramping up towards its ambitious 'Hip Hop 50' project in 2023, which promises to celebrate the full history of the genre as it celebrates half-a-century since its birth.
Mass Appeal has already signed a TV partnership with broadcaster Showtime for a "Hip Hop 50" series that Variety says will "highlights the genre's dense history through the lens of different participants and delves into the sub-cultures birthed from its rise".
Mass Appeal and Showtime previously collaborated on the Peabody-nominated "Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men" documentary series.
"We are thrilled to be reunited with the team at The Orchard," said Peter Bittenbender, CEO, Mass Appeal.
"What Brad and his staff have built over the past few years is beyond impressive, and we can't wait to help supercharge their place in Hip Hop with all the incredible talent and projects we have lined up, including a major project for our 'Hip Hop 50' platform."
Mass Appeal's work spans into the television and film sector with original music for projects like HBO's "Silicon Valley", Netflix's "The White Tiger" and "40-Year-Old Version", while also covering the video game industry with placements in the "Grand Theft Auto V" and the "NBA2K" franchises.
"Nas, Peter, and the Mass Appeal team have built an invaluable community that supports and cultivates artist creativity," said Brad Navin, CEO, The Orchard.
"As a company and strategic partner, The Orchard will continue to empower and reinforce their creative vision, and help all artists under the partnership expand their global reach."
[via Music Business Worldwide]