Nas has broken his tradition of refusing brand partnerships and signed a one-year partnership with athletic apparel company Fila.

Fila will offer reciprocal financial support for Nas’ print and TV ad campaign as well as his upcoming tour in support of his untitled album, due July 15 via Def Jam. In return, the MC will wear Fila products and co-create an apparel line that draws from fashions of the late ’80s.

“My best friend Will and I loved Fila,” Nas told Billboard. “It represented prestige and everything that was cool to us. When Will passed, we buried him in a black Fila sweat suit, so doing a deal with them has a lot of significance for me.”

According to Fila president John Epstein, it was a natural match. “One of my executives spotted Nas shopping in our Manhattan store and struck up a conversation with him,” Epstein says. “Nas isn’t interested in selling out. He’s interested in being true, and that fits with our brand.”

Nostalgia aside, some may view Epstein as brave to co-brand his company with an MC who’s pledged to unpack America’s racial struggles.

“I had some trepidation, and then I started talking to 16- to 20-year-old kids in focus groups,” Epstein says. “They looked at me like I was crazy for not understanding his message of positive change. Nas is relevant to his followers and I don’t have to understand it as long as they do.”

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