Updated: Mar 4
Who is Kareem Nuri? That answer varies depending on who you ask. To the kids at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School in Washington, D.C, Mr. Kareem (as they call him) leads as the Director of the Dragon Squad for In-School Learning Pods, an on-site educational aide program for at-risk youth and youth of essential workers. To others, he’s a producer better recognized as “SoundExecution” who gets busy with making beats and co-hosting the “Reke and Reem” podcast. To many, he is known as the creative behind Nuri Designs, his brand of beautiful hand-made bags that came to life back in 2014 as a product of becoming a self-taught sewist. Thought we were finished? Not quite. Kareem is also the visionary behind “Excellence” (not just Black Excellence, though that’s a given), his clothing and apparel line as an extension of Nuri Designs that dropped in 2017. You could say Kareem Nuri is a young King of many crowns, as that is nothing but facts. But if you ask me personally, he is a super dope person who I am fortunate to call a really good friend.
With his father residing in Atlanta, mother in Western, MA and having roots to multiple states/countries from a having mobile childhood, Kareem's experiences of growing up global provided him a taste of culture from down South, up North and everything in between. Legit. Singapore, Lagos (Nigeria) Minnesota, Maryland and Brooklyn are just a few to give you an idea, but all roads eventually lead to his current residency of holding it down in D.C since 2010. As a result, the tangible evidence of his multifaceted style and influence is seen throughout all of his work, making it one of its most unique features.
To kick things off, I had to take it back and ask which was his first love when it came to music and design, as those are the two crafts Kareem works on improving his relationship with the most. "Music has always been a part of my life." Though his environment was more of a variable growing up, music has always been a constant. Growing up with his father playing piano and both grandparents as musicians eventually sparked Kareem's interest in music at a young age. “I remember making drum sets out of pots and pans in elementary school. They didn’t offer drums, so I started with recorder, then clarinet, then saxophone.” By the time he got to middle school, he played damn near every instrument you could think of in the school band. “I played percussion so timpani, cymbals, triangle, xylophone, snare...it was "orchestra".” Once acclimated to the basics, beats and freestyles soon followed eventually leading to the birth of "SoundExecution".
But what led to the appeal of needlework and learning the art of sewing? “Dissatisfaction with work. I still haven’t made the bag I started to sew for. I have the drawing from like ‘06 though.” He preferred to keep this piece on the low until it's completed, with an intent to drop later this year. Stay tuned folks. “In terms of designing, I don’t care about fashion,” he added. “I just like to make things!”
With the intention to build Nuri Designs as more of a luxury brand, Kareem recognized the need to have a product that would broaden his demographic. "I knew that everyone didn't have hundreds to spend on bags, but still might want to support. So I said what can I make that's meaningful? That's more accessible? What do I stand for? What do I believe in?" Excellence was the answer. What started out as hats and t-shirts with a statement of a logo eventually led to custom pieces, accessories and even masks that recently got a shoutout in GQ. With Excellence's growth in product came Kareem's growth in creativity and allowing himself to design freely.
"Is that a Chick-fil-A cup?!" I had to jokingly press while catching a glimpse through FaceTime. The story behind that is Kareem’s intriguing relationship with food as he has the ability to switch up his diet so frequently. “I was vegetarian, then vegan, then vegetarian, now I’m back to eating meat.” The goal of putting on weight has also played a major factor that influences his eating habits as he’s also what you call a “hard-gainer”, or person who is challenged in adding muscle despite the amount of effort put in. But don't worry y'all. Even though this relationship might sound complicated, when I asked how Kareem felt about it, he described it as "I fookin' love it! I've been applying my creativity to the kitchen this past year." Finding another outlet to express himself: check.
So, who is Kareem Nuri? Well, who better to ask than Kareem Nuri. “A grounded, empathetic soul whose confidence comes from knowing that I will find a way to execute whatever it is that I want to get done. Someone who endeavors to maximize the tools around him to benefit himself and his inner circle.”
Speed Round with Kareem:
KD: What is the last good meal you ate and where from?
KN: Steaks from home, seasoned with sea salt and chipotle chili flakes, seared and then finished in the toaster oven with some vegetables. Got a little mesquite action there.
Outside of home would be Ted’s in Atlanta, the Bison steak. Delicious.
KD: “When I visit my parents, I have to visit…”
KN: When I visit my parents, it’s always a Thai restaurant. When I visit my mom, it’s Thai Garden in Northampton, MA. When I visit my pops, it’s Mali in Atlanta.
KD: If you could choose an artist to produce and/or design for, who would it be?
KN: Musically: I have this idea for a hip-hop opera. I’d write an opera for different artists to where the characters fit their actual personalities.
KD: Who would you cast for the opera?
KN: Hmmm. Definitely Push. Probably Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Hov, Rick Ross, and Rapsody. I really like what Rapsody is doing.
KD: And designing?
KN: It would have been for Nipsey and what he represents in my life. Push is up next for two reasons. 1) I’m a fan and 2) For his knowledge of fashion and brands.
KD: Who is your inspiration in both music and fashion/design?
KN: For fashion, Louis Vuitton. Not the brand, but the person. How he left home at 14 and was an apprentice, made trunks and was the first to put leather on outside...his innovation for flat trunks when no one else had it. At that age, to be willing to set out and do that on your own is huge! I also like the way seats in high-end luxury cars are made. The diamond quilting in my bags is actually born of interest in high-end luxury vehicles
Musically would be Dr. Dre, Timbaland, DJ Premiere, and more recently Boi-1da. He could be the next Dr. Dre. I like the way he produces...his range, his creativity. Also, The Neptunes. A lot of inspiration comes from the realm that I’m producing. I’m looking at cars, trucks, etc.”
KD: What’s your most challenging goal you’re setting for yourself for 2021?
KN: My most challenging goal for 2021 is setting a goal for 2021! (Jokingly). Honestly, executing a new career path. I’ve been at my current institution job for 10 years and you’re a completely different person every 10 years. I’ve been interested in business/entrepreneurship. I want to gain a lot of traction there in 2021. That and shaking the millennial curse of failed relationships (also kidding, but not kidding).