Since September, East Baltimore native Lawrence Burney has lived in New York, covering music for Vice's music website, Noisey. But he still makes a trip home once a week to see his 6-year-old daughter, Ayden.
He spends nearly all of his time visiting with her, but the 26-year-old writer still keeps tabs on Baltimore's music and culture. Living away from it all has forced him to dig deeper, he said.
"The times I do get to go out, I really try to catch the essence more and more, because I feel like I have to make more of an effort because I'm not there as much," Burney said on the phone from New York earlier this week. "If anything, it's making me aware of the scene in a way I didn't have to be aware before."
Tonight, Burney will be in town again to launch the second issue of his Baltimore-focused magazine True Laurels, at New Beginnings Barbershop (1047 Hollins St.) from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. The first issue featured local artists Grey Dolf, YBS Skola, Joy Postell, among others.
Expanded to 76 full-color pages, the publication's second issue features rising Baltimore rapper Bandhunta Izzy on the cover. After the magazine's first run of copies, Burney plans to make more available for purchase at Red Emma's in the near future.
Burney spoke about the topics he wanted to tackle in this issue, why he chose Izzy as a cover star and how he hopes True Laurels will inspire others to create. These are excerpts from our conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.
After the first issue, what was your approach with the second?
I was trying to represent a lot of different realities and scenes within the city. I was proud of that, and wanted to maintain that, but I wanted to get better. The first issue didn't really have any criticism in it, or it didn't really question how things worked in the city. It was just the scene.
That was something I wanted to address this time, so I have a story in there with Lawrence Brown, who's a professor at Morgan [State University]. He's also an environmental activist so I got him to give a history and a breakdown of the lead-poison crisis in Baltimore. It's always been a topic of discussion — kids in high school suing the city to get money for having lead poisoning or just trying to see if they had lead poisoning to get a check or just not being able to drink from fountains in school. … I referenced a few artists in the city that mention it in their music like President Davo, Young Moose. A lot of artists bring up lead-related issues in their music, which I thought was something that was very interesting and particular to Baltimore.
Izzy is a great choice for the cover. You're going to have some Baltimore girls going crazy with the photos.
They love Izzy. It's crazy. His Instagram is insane. [laughs]
So, why Izzy?
I'm just really excited about Izzy's future. It's interesting how things have unfolded with [Lor] Scoota and Moose, because I always said when both of them started to get super hot, if Scoota and Moose aren't the ones to break Baltimore wide open, they're going to inspire the next generation. The kid that's going to break out probably needs to see them first to know they can do it. I didn't think that'd come so quickly, but Izzy is a prime example of that to me. He's four or five years younger than Moose and Scoota, which is crazy to think because Moose is young. He's like 24. So Izzy is like 19, 20, and he's just a super polished rapper at this stage. He's way beyond what Moose and Scoota were at 19. He has a good voice. He has the look. I really think that Izzy is somebody to look out for, not even just from a Baltimore standpoint but period.
What else is in Issue 2?
As always, I've got some diaries by some artists. One of them is Corey Washington, who's an illustrator who is from Baltimore but lives in L.A. She's gained a great following on Instagram. She created a character named Willoughby, who questions how society works. It's a therapeutic kind of practice for her, and people really identify with the character and like how it looks.
When you flip through the issue, what's the connective tissue through the entire thing? Is it the Baltimore connection tying everything together?
Right now, that's where my focus is. The more that I grow with this publication, the more that will change. … Hopefully some kid, somebody who's 15 who might stumble across this zine and see all of these people from Baltimore and think, "Well, maybe I should give something creative a try" or "Maybe this urge I felt to do something is real. Maybe I should actually focus on it." Other than that, it's just making people aware, which is why I wanted to do the lead story. I'm just trying to have a combination of ways of stimulating people.
If you go
True Laurels' Issue 2 Celebration takes place 7-9:30 tonight at New Beginnings Barbershop, 1047 Hollins St. Free. For more information, go to truelaurels.com.