It’s Kareem Rahmas the Internet and we were just scrolling through it

I could not escape Kareem Rahma. She was on my Twitter feed when he waged a war against his fellow condo tenants after hers New York magazine was stolen. She found her way into my Instagram feed when her satirical video about 387 days without reading was posted on a meme account I follow. And when I tucked my phone out of sight to graduate, he was the commencement speaker for the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts (her alma mater). Completely and utterly unavoidable.

That’s the nature of Rahma, an 11-year-old Minnesotan and now New Yorker.

You could call him a comedian, a writer, a producer or a poet. All of these titles apply. But it is also much more. He recently starred in a Wide city-as a short film produced by Nicholas Heller (more commonly known as New York Nico), Out of order, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. He’s done dozens of stand-up comedy shows, even though he told me he doesn’t consider himself a stand-up comedian. He has a podcast. He’s written songs that can only be described as Lonely Island-esque. And it went viral. On every platform imaginable. Many times. These days, though, going viral again is the last thing on his long list of priorities.

I’m not interested in going viral if there’s no reward, I’m not talking about a financial reward,” she says over a spinach-feta omelet and coffee with almond milk at a Brooklyn restaurant. For me, it’s more about to get my ideas seen and produced and developed versus having a bunch of people go Lol thats great At the end of the day, I want people to understand me or understand each other more through what I do.

Whatever qualities a creator needs to tug at the internet’s heartstrings or to get outsiders to pay attention to their digital machinations, this multi-hyphenated media personality possesses them.

You can see this most clearly through her web series on Instagram and TikTok. ON The subway takesasks New Yorkers on the train to leave their warmest opinions.Keep the meter running hasRahma hailing a yellow cab on a busy New York City street, asking the driver to take him and his crew anywhere in the city and literally keep the meter running, paying for their time as they trudge along. Rahma got the idea a couple of years ago after talking to a cab driver taking him from Manhattan to Brooklyn about some problems he was having late at night.

Rahma remembers the driver’s kindness and wisdom, she tells me the driver gave him just the kind of advice you want to hear in times of trouble. So when Rahma was dropped off, he asked if they could keep hanging out. In no uncertain terms, the taxi driver replied: Yes, but I’ll have to keep the meter on.

Among other places Rahma explores through her series, cab drivers have taken him to a casino in Queens, a West African restaurant in the Bronx, and an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. The series is an unequivocal success, with its best videos garnering millions of views.

Its roots

The Rahmas immigrated from Cairo, Egypt to Minnesota when Kareem was 3 years old. It wasn’t easy with Arabic as his primary language, Kareem went to school not knowing English, so his classmates scolded him. I had no friends. I was bullied because I didn’t speak English. I was beaten on the bus. I was kicked out of kindergarten because I cried too much. And then eventually, I don’t know what happened, I got cool. Probably because I spoke English by then, he said.

The oldest of three children, he recalls a childhood in his Mendota Heights cul-de-sac, surrounded by children who rode their bikes and played baseball and basketball with each other. It was kind of like The Sandlot [] it was a great life growing up, Rahma said.

His mother ran a daycare at Kareem’s home and his father took up odd jobs which, according to Kareem, would last a couple of months and then fizzle out. He was an entrepreneur, he tells me. Rahma’s father, when he first moved to America in 1969, drove taxis for his first five years in the country.

Rahma remembers accompanying her late father to a couple of his jobs. He was constantly a new hustle, a new idea, a new thing to do and explore, he said. One of these included transporting human organs from Twin Cities hospitals to neighboring cities. At age 11, Kareem was on his way to Fargo with his father in a snowstorm to transport an organ to a hospital. So I go deliver a heart and then come back, he says nonchalantly, like he’s delivering dry cleaning.

At the University of Minnesota, he majored in journalism and worked at the Minnesota newspaper selling digital and newspaper ads. He lived in Como and ate bowls of minced meat with barbecue sauce. He joined a fraternity, was kicked out of the fraternity for not coming to fraternity meetings, graduated and got a job at the Risdall Marketing Group, before a stint at the now closed McNally Smith College of Music as Head of the online marketing, and then as a teacher for an internet class.

During a lunch break while Rahma worked out at the local Lifetime Fitness, she overheard a guy complaining to his friend in the locker room that his boss wouldn’t let him go on vacation with his family. Rahma remembers thinking to herself: If this is how the real world is, he’s not participating. With that in mind, he moved to New York in his mid-twenties to accomplish two things: get rich and never work for anyone else again. Since then, he says, one of those things has happened.

Before carving out his own path, he started from Vice working in the global marketing division and then moving on to New York Times to develop your digital audience and growth strategy in video. During that time, he witnessed the evolution of digital media and was attuned to the inner workings of online culture.

Rahma tells me he’s never been interested in technology, offering the example that he doesn’t have any smart lights in his house. But I love the internet. This is my favorite thing. This is my hobby. If it’s a hobby, Rahma has mastered it.

Crazy strategy brain

Last February, Rahmas New York magazine was stolen from her apartment. She saw it as she left her apartment in the pile of mail and didn’t see it after she got back. So she put up a sign. Then the sign went viral. What else is a guy to do in a situation like that but keep the momentum going, build the world, give them more? An alleged neighbor wrote on Rahmas’ sign that they would return the magazine to him if he stopped playing his music so loudly. It went viral. Then other tenants and the landlord also got involved. New York he even reached out to write an article about the debacle. I’m going to reveal for the first time ever that the whole thing, outside of the stolen magazine, which was actually stolen, he says, was completely staged, he tells me. I do not know if [New York Magazine] was he okay with my joke or not, he said. I am speechless. It is funny. It is funny. Why not? I mean, half the shit you see on the internet is fake anyway, she says.

Eventually, Rahma wants to produce TV shows and movies. But building a large-scale business can take years and unattainable resources. Meanwhile, Anthony Di Mieri, one of the two directors in office Meter, says Rahma broke the mold of TikTok with her crazy strategic brain. He knows the internet better than anyone else, he’s like an internet expert, Di Mieri tells me.

ON The subway takes, another show Rahma produces with help from directors Di Mieri and Willem Holzer, sits on the subway with a guest and they have a 60-second or less conversation about a steamy take of them. (Reading books on the subway is performative, wearing flip-flops in the city is disgusting, etc.) Most of the takes are tongue in cheek, some are sincere. The show is similar to a quick, digestible podcast without producing a podcast. People are sitting on the Internet discussing the dumbest things in the world in the comments. So why not give them a proper forum? he said.

He knows that the things we are building will be successful. He breathes it in and it happens. I mean, there are a lot of leaks in there, but it’s the momentum of the strategy that really gets things going, Holzer said.

The great experiment

While the Great New York The 2022 magazine debacle was fake, Rahma insists Meter it is completely and totally real. It’s a wholesome show, spotlighting the native New Yorkers and immigrants who have come to the city to pursue their own form of the American dream. In a recent episode, Rahma accompanies taxi driver Balde Mohamed as he has Iftar in the Masjid for Ramadan. We see Rahma meeting his family, eating Iftar and praying with them. We hear a conversation where Balde Mohamed opens up about the loss of his father. These are true New Yorker stories, the kind that a TikToker approaching NYU students with a microphone in Washington Square Park is less likely to stumble across.

[The cab drivers stories] they are recognizable stories for everyone. It’s working-class work, and those hopes and aspirations that those riders have are very reflective in the public, because I think we all have the same to some version, Holzer said.

Will Rahma ever go back to Minnesota and be driven around by Twin Cities Uber drivers asking them to take him to their favorite spots? He considered the tri-coastal lifestyle by staying in New York in the spring and fall, Minnesota in the summer and Los Angeles in the winter. For now, it’s New York or nowhere. But who knows where Rahma will be next year, or in five or ten. Everything is one big experiment, he tells me.

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