It’s been a minute since French rapper Joke dropped any new music, but you’d be mistaken to think he’s been sitting around, resting on his laurels. The spitter behind “Harajuku” has often been branded “ahead of his time,” and he recently revealed that he’s returning to prove it with a new album, titled Ultra Violet.

“Vision” is the first single released from the new album, but it’s so much more than that, it’s an anthem for Nike’s sneaker of the moment: the VaporMax. Like Joke, VaporMax is a manifestation of the future, heavily influenced by the past.

The video—directed by Nathalie Canguilhem—reflects the VaporMax’s sophisticated character which developed over years of research. The result is a technical innovation, a forward-thinking fashion design and a futurist art piece.

VaporMax and “Vision” having both just dropped, we got the chance to quiz Joke on the track, his new album and Air Max. Listen to the new single and watch the video above before reading our interview with the artist below.

When did you first start making music and what’s changed between then and now?

I started at nine years old, and I’m 27 now, but nothing has really changed. The passion is the same, but I’m able to dream bigger now.

Talk to us about the new album, where did the inspiration come from and how’s the entire creative process been for you?

Inspiration came from life, feelings I have, the moments I live. Every little thing making me who I am has impacted the album. When I’m writing, I don’t think too much, and I let the feelings work. The artistic direction was complicated because I was looking for a precise sound. It was difficult communicating the vision I had in my mind to the producers. We had to make a lot of beats to find what I wanted.

What’s the first song you’re releasing from the album and what’s it about?

It’s called “Vision,” and it’s produced by Ikaz Boi. It’s not really about something, it’s me expressing myself. There are a few messages in the lyrics for those who get them but I think the message is more in the song’s energy.

What’s the concept behind the video?

The idea was to match the music with my vision for the VaporMax. When I see the sneaker, I see something futuristic but street at the same time. That’s what Nathalie Canguilhem and I tried to communicate. I think the VaporMax matches my universe perfectly because that futuristic street shit is what I’m about in my music.

Which artists have influenced your sound?

I think Kanye, Pharrell and Jay Z made me who I am today musically. I’ve always been curious, so I’ve listened to a lot of different music genres. Everything has influenced me, but I don’t think I’d be making the music I am today without them. I grew up listening to them. I couldn’t understand a damn word but everything was about feeling and aesthetic, their vocals were more like an instrument to me.

You often reference Japan in your music, why is that?

The two EPs that exposed me to the French public in 2013 were Kyoto and Tokyo. At that time I wanted to go to Japan with the money I’d made, and that’s why I choose the titles. We managed to go there to shoot two videos. I wanted to go there because I grew up with all these streetwear brands and that futuristic image of Japan, so I wanted to experience it. Since then I’ve not really made references to Japan, but I guess it’s stuck with my image.

What does your creative process look like?

Sometimes I feel like I’m an antenna, words and music are floating around me, and I try to catch them. I can sit down to write stuff and it can be cool but never as good as when it comes to me naturally, the songs or verses I’m proudest of are the one I created spontaneously.

Tell us a little about your style and what it says about you?

I think my style says a lot about my life. I’m a young black who grew up in France with no money while listening to a lot of American rap and a bit of French rap. I have that French refinement, but I’m close to the street.

What does Nike Air Max mean to you?

La paire de la rue.

Can you remember the first pair of Air Max sneakers you owned?

Air Max BW, when I was 10. I used to rock them with a red Lacoste tracksuit. It was the shit back then.

Highsnobiety and Nike are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Air Max 1 with an entire month of in-depth articles, personal stories and events leading up to Air Max Day 2017. Read the story behind the original Air Max 1, find out the how the VaporMax and the new Nike Master releases came about, and see how you and your ‘gram can get featured on Highsnobiety with our Nike Snobshots competition. Visit nike.com if you fancy copping some Air Max’s.

Words by Aaron Howes
Branded Content Editor