Relativity to distrib Ruthless rap

Relativity Entertainment Distribution, the nation’s largest independent record distributor, announced Thursday it will handle marketing and distribution for Ruthless Records, the groundbreaking rap label widely credited with launching the genre.

The widely expected pact reunites Ruthless general manager Jerry Heller with Harry Palmer, general manager of Relativity Records.

The pair worked together when Palmer was an exec at Atco Records and marketed releases from Ruthless acts DOC and Michel’le.

“We shared some major victories,” Palmer said of the earlier relationship. “I have no doubt (the new deal) will produce exciting and fruitful results.”

The announcement comes just two months after Ruthless severed its ties with Priority Records, the distributor of pioneering gangsta rap group N.W.A., which Eric Wright founded with fellow rappers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.

The group is credited with kicking off the genre and helping turn rap into big business. Dre, who has been working with Cube on a new N.W.A. album entitled “Helter Skelter,” is being sued by Wright for interfering in the operation of Ruthless.

Initial word of the pact (Daily Variety, July 19) raised concerns that Wright’s deal with N.Y.-based Relativity would affect his lawsuit against Sony Music, which owns 50% of Relativity Entertainment Distribution. Wright’s attorney Michael Bourbeau said the pact and the lawsuit are unrelated. “They are two distinct and separate issues.”

The deal could significantly increase Relativity’s presence in the rap marketplace, adding to its already solid hold in hard rock and metal. Some sources estimate the Ruthless deal could be worth around $ 35 million in the first year.

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