The arrival of the new year always tends to bring with it new beginnings. And just like how we like to reminisce as the years roll on by, so too has the Air Max 90. With the model’s 30th anniversary now only a stone’s throw away, Nike has recrafted their iconic silhouettes and taken it back to its origins with this Air Max 90 ‘CS’ iteration. Here, we shed light on the remodified model and share with you exclusive interviews with two musical influencers, Joy Crookes and Femi Koleoso.
It’s safe to say a lot has changed musically over the last three decades. The UK, in particular, has seen the organic rise of grime, with homegrown MCs, DJs, rappers and producers evolving from the early days of jungle and garage and putting in the groundwork for a now chart-topping genre. You only have to take a listen to the countless lyrics – or a look back at classic promotion pics – to see the influence Air Max has had on the fashion of the grime scene.
To celebrate the model’s influence on contemporary music culture, last month we joined forces with Nike to put on a special ‘AM90 Rewind’ exhibition at our size? Carnaby Street store. The fully-immersive event took a retrospective look back at the trainer’s lasting footprint within the music scene, taking you through the shoe’s seminal journey into different genres.
Continuing to champion that musical culture, we took things one step further – working with Nike to host an exclusive ‘Recraft Studio’ event. The one-day music production experience took place at London’s The Church Studios, offering aspiring musicians – from a whole host of backgrounds – the chance to work with industry leaders in a professional studio environment.
If you who haven’t heard of The Church Studios before, it was taken over by Grammy award-winning music producer and songwriter Paul Epworth in 2013. Situated in London’s Crouch End, legendary artists such as The XX, Lana Del Rey and Bob Dylan have all recorded in the enormous central space.
Those lucky enough to take part in the workshop were joined by none other than one of London’s rising talents, Joy Crookes. A true master of her craft, we caught up with the Elephant and Castle- raised singer to find out a little more about her musical influences and what helps shapes her sound and lyrics.
“I’ve always loved music,” she says. “I never had an epiphany moment, it just was always there.”
Growing up, Joy listened to “honestly, everything.” She cites an eclectic journey through all sounds and genres – “from my dad’s Irish side there was The Pogues, Sinead O’Connor, etc. – but we’d also listen to James Blake’s first album and then old roots reggae like Lee Scratch Perry, Burning Spear and Gregory Isaacs. And Kate Nash – I remember I wanted to be her for about three years.”
Joy is poetically clear on how her diverse music taste shapes her music: “It’s a bit like being a painter. You’re painting a garden of roses – but you need all the different colours. All those influences and genres colour my palette to create something new.”
But it’s clear that it’s more than her encyclopaedic musical knowledge that colours her palette – Joy finds inspiration all around: “street names, clothes people are wearing when I’m having an argument with them, facial expressions, seeing someone cry on the tube, conversations with friends about truly personal things.”
Though she doesn’t just work off these sparks of inspiration and write songs instantaneously. Joy likes to do her research: reading, highlighting passages in novels and poetry, flicking through her notes and annotations – it’s a creative process that allows her to create rich stories with full meanings. When she’s ready, she’ll sit and work out chords and lyrics over her guitar and home.
And it’s at home that Joy best likes to create. “I like writing in my living room. I have a tiny desk and there’s big windows for light. Then there’s just my laptop, mic and instruments. It’s all I need.”
Joy is confident, hard-working and straight-talking; fuelled with a “fire” she thinks she gets from her Bengali-born mother and an “articulate matter-of-factness” from her Irish-born father. She holds her parents in extremely high regard – they’re her greatest mentors.
When asked what kind of mentor Joy herself wants to be, it seems she wants to pass on what she’s been given by them. “I hope I can help give people a sense of self – so they know they can rely on themselves, self-empowerment! That’s what it’s all about.”
We also caught up with Femi Koleoso, drummer in the London-based five-piece Ezra Collective. Pioneers of a new wave of UK jazz music, the collective has worked with the likes of Loyle Carner, Jorja Smith and Ty to name a few, and just like Joy, Femi too is a master of his musical craft.
“I’ve been playing the drums since I was four years old,” says Femi. “I got a kit for Christmas, it was just a toy – but I’ve kept it going.”
Speaking of those early days, Femi unveils how the sounds of his parents’ favourite artists filled his world: Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and a lot of gospel music. These were his staples until he found another genre – one that would have a lasting influence on his music, just like the rhythms of his childhood.
“Grime was the first sort of music where I realised ‘this is my music’,” he says, remembering the pioneering days of pirate radio station Axe FM and listening to Skepta, JME, Kano and Dizzee Rascal when the scene was in its infancy.
By being able to relate to the artists, the inspiration they provided him with was massive. “There’s a lot of power in the people that you think represent you,” he affirms, “You suddenly realise – I could be like that.”
But it’s more than music that inspires Femi when he sits down at the drums – sometimes it’s fashion, sport, politics, places, and the youths he works with: “The older I get, the more I’m inspired by people younger than me. I work with a youth group; it’s my joy, it’s my energy, their resilience inspires me every day.”
You might think it’d be difficult for Femi to recraft all these influences and inspirations into his drum beats, but he says practice makes perfect, “I practice the drums so much so I can eloquently articulate myself in any circumstance – it means I can reflect those different things that I’ve heard or that I’m feeling. And it’s exciting because as I get older, the better I’ll become at that.”
If you listen to Ezra Collective, it’s clear the proof is there. You’ll notice those influences roll through every beat. Practice really does make perfect when it comes to honing his craft.
Femi’s dedication to his youth work is evidence of his desire to share the result of all this practice and experience around: “I’m very much into that proverb, ‘each one, teach one’ – it only takes sharing one success story for another person to succeed.”
“That’s why it’s so important that brands like Nike are getting involved in culture, and that they’re helping people up. You can’t deny the influence of the Nike swoosh. They’ve got the influence and infrastructure to do such good – it can only be a good thing.”
Onto the shoe now and the ‘CS’ features a few slight tweaks to its uppers that take it closer to Tinker Hatfield’s 1990 OG than post-2008 reissues – something the Air Max connoisseurs amongst you will surely appreciate.
What’s changed is clear when you take a look at the upper panelling: the mudguard starts lower at the forefoot, sloping a little flatter and rising closer to the collar than recent iterations. The shoe’s toe box height has also been readjusted to make it slightly narrower, so too has the heel branding shape. What’s more, extra padding at the ankle serves up plush comfort and takes the AM90’s design one step closer to the original.
All housed within Nike’s original slimline hazard-striped shoebox, the Air Max ‘CS’ honours its predecessor with a decorative Air Max 1 outsole print on the footbed, while ‘1990’ and ‘2020’ lace deubré detailing nods to the silhouette’s 30-year tenure.[ratings]
The Air Max 90 ‘CS’ is out now.