As impossible as it may seem the very second you are reading this, at some point in the future the Internet will be no more. Your Twitter freak outs over Game of Thrones, your godawful selfies, your reblogged cat photos, your obsessive cataloging of everything you've ever eaten. Everything. Everything you love and hate will vanish and be no more. The empire of the Internet shall go the way of all empires and crumble into dust. “Look upon my posts, ye mighty and despair. ” – www.ozymondi.as
Luckily, the primary method of storing information for the past several thousand years shall continue on unabated (for the most part). Paper, for all its fragility, lasts while also providing a kind of tactile immediacy. For all the benefits the Internet conveys, it just never feels… real. Content comes across your screen and leaves, instantly disposable. Statistics show that you as a reader don't actually read most of what you click on before you share it or close the window. (If you're still with us, thank you.)
True Laurels is a physical object. It is a rap zine springing out of the eponymous blog and reporting done by Lawrence Burney whose work has appeared on Pitchfork, XXL and Noisey as well as more local sources. Burney set for himself a difficult task of putting out a physical object every two months; collecting new content from artists, writers and photographers. The object is to make True Laurels a collaborative effort allowing people to speak what's on their mind in a way that's true to themselves while also ensuring that each issue is collaborative rather than mandated from the top down.
The bulk of each issue are what's known as the Diaries, where Burney gets artists to write about whatever is on their minds. It's not certain what directive Burney gives to the contributors or how they are selected but he has gotten some remarkably intimate information out of the contributors.
83Cutlass, one of our favorite newer artists to come out of Baltimore, talks about quitting his job to make music and hitting Coinstar to theoretically pay for essentials but saying fuck it and just buying weed instead. Neuport talks about the time on heroin that made him clean up his act. Though not ever Diary is a confessional. Go DDM talks about working at an OB/GYN and the drive to get out of bad situations.
The diaries are fascinating. Not quite interviews, and you can be very aware that the artist is showing you what they want you to see, but it does give a bit more insight into someone's thought process than their twitter feed, especially for artists who are not very active in writing outside of social media.
In addition to the diaries, there are the usual reviews covering the more outré side of hip hop culture (Asaad, Lee Bannon, Ricky Eat Acid) but also commenting on better known acts (Beyoncé, Migos, THE WEEKND). These reviews are about a paragraph each and seem closer to snap judgements than they do to actual reviews, especially as the issues go on and less space is devoted to each issue. This isn't actually problematic though as the conciseness of each paragraph gives you more than a Twitter sized “ALBUM X is GOOD/HORRIBLE.”
Each issue is a learning process for Burney and it shows that he's willing to experiment a bit in format and in True Laurels as a physical object. In addition to the essays, diaries and reviews, Burney has started to showcase artists and photographers in the magazine. Issue three contains a few illustrations by Mike Hinson (whose portrait of Jungle Pussy is on the cover). Issue two contains photos from Baltimore's DIY scene by Rusty Burke.
The articles in True Laurels so far focus on the outside media which surrounds hip hop culture. Thus far mostly films (including a very spirited defense of Cam'Ron's Killa Season movie that sent me to Amazon to see if I could still buy it) Though there are some misfires for the format. There is an article on “Hip Hop Dance Videos” which for all the hot mess above about the internet dying some day, would probably be better as a web article so that one could embed the videos discussed.
It's honestly hard to determine what you'd expect more from the zine's content as it seems to be a localized version of Maximum Rock N Roll, the long running DIY Punk zine based out of the San Francisco Bay area. The diaries read like the columns in the front, there are a few longer articles dealing with artists or culture and there are reviews in the back. This isn't a knock against the format, as it's one that works quite well.
True Laurels as a physical object is impressive. When you read that it's a “music zine” you could be forgiven for immediately thinking of inexpensive xeroxed cut-up culture aesthetic cranked out at your local copy shop on paper so cheap the ink bleeds through to the other side. Bumey's zine inches more towards art zine than punk zine with heavy card stock covers and a direction in paper selection that is moving towards higher quality paper stock per issue. When I spoke to Laurence at the True Laurels #3 launch party, he said he was still basically using Kinko's print on demand services which, while expensive, was fast. I'm curious at what point he'll try to do an issue through an actual printer which would give him even more freedom and allow for better photograph reproduction (the photos thus far appear to be very noisy and slightly pixelated due to the printing process used).
Issue four of True Laurels is slated for release next week and once more there will be an edition of the Kahlon party in Baltimore which coincides with this release. Performing will be Abdu Ali, Weekends, Buffa70 and DJing the night will be Baltimore Club Legend Scottie B, Co La, Sexoesthetic and Sentinly. The issue features Scottie B, Buffa7o, Chrissy Vasquez, Don Christian and more.
You can buy previous issues and check out sample stories at the True Laurels website. It comes highly recommended.