STRAIGHT PATH JEWLZ INTERVIEW WITH FENOMENA
Straight Path Jewlz
We came across Straight Path Jewlz around two years ago. Nasir Nolan, an entrepreneur from Massachusetts is the genius behind SPJ. As far as we’ve looked, we’ve never seen anything as remarkable as these highly affordable jewels that create a significant bond between the jewelry and who wears them. SPJ are custom made beaded necklaces with imagery inside of blown glass pendants. Nasir has earned himself an international client list, which also consists of big names from the Hip Hop industry and community. There is no doubt that SPJ is a unique brand on its own, as most of the jewelry is unique to the customer, from the image on the glass to the beading. We had the pleasure of speaking to Nasir over a Skype conversation and we can clearly say the man is very humble and an incredible innovator, which is evidently projected through his art. He was very passionate when he spoke about his brand, and explained how SPJ consumes his life. He quotes “I dream about color coordination, I eat, sleep, and breathe SPJ”. Nasir is also a father of two lovely daughters Amani and Alina, whom he spoke dearly of. He mentioned how he wanted to leave something substantial behind for them. He believes his art can live on and they can someday experience the effect it has had on so many people internationally. One day they can travel the world and meet the people that have been touched by something that their father created. This is a major goal for Nasir, to leave a legacy for his daughters.
FENOMENA: How did you come about creating your brand SPJ?
Nasir: Originally I was looking for something for myself to wear. I always used to wear dhikr (Islamic devotional act) beads, when I found myself doing the right thing. It kind of represented the changes that were happening in my life, and it just helped me to stay on the straight path, like a reminder.
Your motto for SPJ is “making positivity fashionable”, could you elaborate a little on this?
That’s actually been shortened, because the original is “Creating art with the purpose of making positivity fashionable”. That pretty much comes from the fact that I’m a father and a Hip Hop connoisseur, but I get tired of seeing negative images and people need something positive to hold onto, to grasp to, in order to get through their struggles and what they are going through. It’s something that shines the light on something positive, not shining a light on negative things, which are influencing people. I’m a pretty positive person and I try to inspire people to actually reach out to obtain their goals or go out on a limb and follow their dreams.
It is evident that SPJ is becoming popular amongst the Hip Hop community, would you like it to expand into high-end fashion or keep it more underground?
I’m trying to have as many people wear SPJ as possible, not just on a money basis even though this provides for my family, but imagine the more people who do wear SPJ, the more people would have a positive attitude. I get a lot of e-mails and phone calls from people that say they wear their jewels to empower themselves, to stay positive and it reminds them to do the next right thing, instead of the next wrong thing. They wear the jewels and it reminds them, just the way it reminded me when I was going through struggles and tribulations. It reminded me to stay on the straight path. You’ve seen the pictures, it reminds people all over the world, so the more people that have SPJ, the more inspiration to make changes and make changes for our children, and make changes in ourselves. So I want as many people in the world to have them, as possible. I want to keep them affordable but at the same time, I’m going to have to try another option for people who want to get high-end pieces, you know infused with gold which is possible with some of the beading, the highlighted beads maybe in rose gold.
What would you say are your three favorite brands?
I’m really simple. In terms of clothing brands I like Levis, and I like Polo (Ralph Lauren), especially rugbies, because Polo always looks clean. As for sneakers, I can’t say one specific brand because I’m a sneaker head. If I had to narrow it down to one sneaker, it would be the original white with black stripe shelltoe (Adidas). I also am a big fan of the collaboration sneakers Burn Rubber Detroit puts out.
How did you develop your technique for crafting the jewlz?
It started with my High School friend Atticus Robbins who is an amazing glass blower , I saw him one day vending on the street, I asked him if he could make something out of glass with “Allah” in Arabic on it. At first he was thinking of just blowing the glass in the shape of the Allah symbol, and I was like no that’s not what I want. So I did a lot of research and found one company that put the images onto glass, and then get them blown inside of the pendant. The rest was all trial and error, learning from others, and not being afraid to ask questions. Also customers challenged me to turn their ideas into fruition. There wasn’t anybody else doing it and there still isn’t anyone doing it in the medium I’m using, mostly beaded, glass necklaces, so that’s the premise of how it started.
When did you realize you had your own style? Since we’ve never seen anything like this before.
From the beginning, the positive response I was getting from everyone who had seen the Jewlz was very encouraging. I was creating Straight Path Jewlz at the same time Good Wood NYC started coming up and I had watched and admired what Kerri O’Connell and her team were able to do with their brand. I also noticed that my products were in a similar lane (beaded jewelry) but at the same time different. Being glass, and more personal with a message behind them. That’s when I realized I had my own individual style, and that there would be a market for SPJ.
What are your inspirations for developing your work?
My main inspiration is Allah (SWT) first and foremost and then my father. My father is a big inspiration to me, he was an entrepreneur and he always taught my brother and I to not wait for anybody to give you anything, just go out and get it and create your own opportunities.
What was your most difficult moment as an artist?
I think in the beginning, nobody really believed this was going to be anything. So, that was a bit difficult. I’ve been through so much from the beginning of this company to where it is today, I’ve been through hell and back but I just kept going, nothing was going to stop me. I just knew I had something, I knew they were going to get better, I knew people will appreciate it, not just the jewelry but the meaning behind the jewelry, and in terms of what I stood for projected into the jewelry.
What do you listen to while you work?
There’s an artist I work quite closely with and he’s a very good friend of mine. He goes by name of WhoSane. I listen to a lot of his work when I do my work. His success means my success and my success means his. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Lord Finesse djing, it’s called Lord Finesse live from Tokyo, its like a mixture of hip hop, break beats, with rare soul vocals of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson etc. Music inspires me. I listen a lot of older NYC 90’s mixtape DJ’s. I just kind of revert back to when everybody in Hip Hop had their own voice and there was more individuality. I am very blessed to have had the opportunity to meet most of my favorite artists. In the earlier stages of SPJ I was listening to a lot of Jay Electronica and Pharoahe Monch ‘WAR’ album through another stage of SPJ. Another thing I do is, I play documentaries in the background while I’m beading, because when you watch documentaries you don’t really have to look at the screen to absorb the knowledge.
We have noticed that your brand delves into your religion. How does your religion affect your art?
The first jewelry that I ever made was the Allah (SWT) pieces and then it branched out onto other things. My religion and spirituality is what drives me, what guides me, when I wake up. Everything that I do is a gift from Allah (SWT). It’s all the things that He has allowed me and given me. And He’s going to keep blessing me. So religion is everything, that’s how I started this company. Al Sirat Al Mustaqeem (Arabic term for straight path), that is the name of my company. I made some T-shirts in the beginning and the T-shirts said Straight Path Jewlz, and on the bottom it said “Share the peacefulness and beauty of Islam with someone today” and that was my goal. It was to change a lot of people’s opinions of Islam through jewelry and through my art. But I make pieces for everybody; I want everybody to enjoy the beauty of the jewelry. The “JEWLZ” not only represent my pieces, but JEWLZ of knowledge, experience, strength and hope that we can all share with one another.
I'm the producer of the One Mic festival at the Kennedy Center. Greg Schick generously gave me one of the beautiful medallions you made for him. I wore it every day, to every event, including the Nas concerts we produced. I got so many compliments on it, including by several members of Nas' crew (and Daru Jones, who was wearing one of your pieces) that following the second performance I actually said to a colleague "the spirit is telling me that Nas should have this." So, I went into his dressing room where he was chilling with some friends. He'd seen me wearing it all weekend, so he really appreciated it when I took it off and offered it to him. He loved it and put it on immediately. I then gave him the little bag and business card that came with the necklace, and explained that you had made it.
The next thing you knew, we were going up to the afterparty where Nas was going to make some remarks and hang out for a bit. As you now know, he was proudly wearing the necklace, and a bunch of people photographed him with it on - including the Washington Post photographer. When I saw Greg again on Wednesday night, I told him the story, thinking that I'd be surprising him. But, he'd already guessed what had happened because he'd seen all the photos in the press and social media, and he told me that you have too! I'm really glad that it worked out this way. Although, I admit that I'm bummed that I no longer have a Straight Path One Mic necklace. Is there any way you can make another?
Very best regards,
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts