Rob Lee
Rob Lee

604. Meet Rob Lee: Charm City conversationalist

The rest of the world really doesn’t understand what it’s like to be from, and proud of, Baltimore. But Rob Lee is trying to change the misconceptions and misinformation about his hometown through his podcast, The Truth in This Art

“In 2019, we had (former president Donald) Trump say Baltimore is just a city filled with rats,” he says. “Yeah, there are rats here, but there are rats in New York, there are rats in New Jersey. There are rats in DC. I wanted to do my part to show Baltimore through my lens, the lens of arts and culture and community.”

Between politicians looking to take a dirty shot at his city and people believing it as nothing but a crime-ridden stop between New York and D.C., Lee wanted to change the conversation, but he wanted to focus on doing that through talking with creatives. 

“I wanted to verbally kind of disprove this notion that Baltimore is a quote-unquote bad city. It’s 70 percent Black. When I hear Baltimore’s this, this, this, I hear you’re talking about Black people. These disposable communities that are underrepresented and marginalized. I wanted to talk with artists and I think having them sharing their work and what goes into their work is a good cross-section (of the population). Whose art is considered art,” Lee says.

As if to underscore both his intent and the importance behind his approach, Lee recounts that he recently received a “sizeable grant” to help support the work on The Truth In This Art. “Someone here, who doesn’t look like me, tells me after I received my award, ‘You’re not an artist, so why did you get it?,’ while I’m receiving the award.” 

His podcast is now four-and-a-half years in the running, a spin-off of sorts from an earlier pair of podcasts, one of which focused on news, while the other focused on pop culture, current events and “weird news,” he says. More than 705 interviews have been shared through the podcast, most of which are conversations longer than 15 minutes and more in the 30-45 minute range. In 2022, he completed 333 episodes, all self-funded. This year’s goal is a more reasonable, less frantic, 80 interviews. 

“A good guest is a conversationalist, someone open to talking about their stuff,” Lee says. “If they have something that’s a little quirky and a little weird in what they do, that’s what lights me up. You have some folks who have a canned response to every interview. I pride myself on asking questions no one’s asking or asking in a different way. … If we start talking though it and I feel the answers are scripted, we pivot. We’re going free jazz.” 

Rob Lee is the host of the Truth In This Art podcast, which examines the intersections of art, culture and community, both in Baltimore, Maryland and beyond.

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