If Lola Brooke had the chance to meet one person, she’d probably pick the late legend DMX.
“DMX gives me chills,” says the Brooklyn dynamo. “I wish I had that [co-sign] so bad. One day, I hope somebody comes up to me and says, ‘You know I brought you up to X, right?’ I just pray that happens.”
Standing 5’0′ tall, the East Coast fireball has traces of her Yonkers role model embedded in her petite frame. Like X, her bark can hush any sizable threat, as previously proven on her 2021 Tri-State standout “Don’t Play With It.” The drill-centric track, featuring her Brooklyn cohort Billy B, showcases Brooke’s charisma and grit, which are essential ingredients needed to climb the hip-hop ranks in New York City. Then, the song received a boost on TikTok and attracted a whole new audience for Brooke.
Today, she touts a fistful of co-signs from Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, Meek Mill, and more. Last December, Future brought out Brooke during his New Year’s Eve show at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. Her homecoming performance went viral, and was punctuated by her electric stage presence, causing Missy Elliott to even sing her praises on Twitter. The following week, Brooke announced her deal with Arista Records in collaboration with Team Eighty Productions.
“Lola is the rare talent whose presence matches her message,” Arista Records CEODavid Massey told Billboard last month. “Her music is larger-than-life, but her vision is just as powerful. We’re excited to welcome her to the Arista Records family.”
With “Don’t Play With It” now gaining chart success two years after its release (it entered the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart last month), Brooke looks to carve up her next big play and become more than New York’s latest rising star. We caught with our February Rookie of the Month to speak about her scorching rise, appreciating her co-signs and what it’ll take to crack the next level.
How did your love for poetry pivot over to you rapping?
I don’t want people to think that I was deeply into poetry. I learned that academically in school. I always had journals and diaries. When I went to school, they taught us about poetry. So I went back home and tried to fix up my journals in that format. It didn’t last too long. I went straight into [makes machine gun noises]. I went straight into that mode. [Laughs.]
You had some influences on the rap side, especially Meek, right?
Meek is the top one. Meek Mill is the one that I said to myself, “If Meek can do it, then I could do it.” The first song I heard from Meek was “Goons Gone Wild.” I remember listening to it, and I was catching the bars — because I used to listen to Lil Wayne and run his songs back, just to make sure I understood what he was saying. So when Meek had his vibe, I knew straight on from jump [what to expect]. I was a fan from there.
He used to vlog his journey and I remember when the public used to say funny stuff. When you’re a fan, you see everything. “He could rap, but can he make songs? Is he gonna last? He just a battle rapper?” And then he proved them wrong. I knew if could do it, I could do it for real.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Yeah, it was like a little love verse. I wrote it for a boy. It was a verse for someone.
Did they hear it?
Yeah, they heard it. I don’t remember telling them if was for them though. I just sent it.
Though people know you for your more aggressive material, I think you’re pretty versatile. Why has that been an important trait for you to have?
It’s important because it’s me. A lot of people be afraid to show their vulnerable side a lot of times, and it’s OK to show that. It’s also OK to hold your guard up too, as well. That’s just the Brooklyn in me. It’s my stomping grounds. I’m always going to hold it up — but at the same time, I do love love. I’m in a space that if you cross me, that love can turn into hate. Without love, there’s no hate. Without hate, there’s no love.
What does being a female rapper from Brooklyn with your kind of momentum mean for you right now?
It means everything. It means power and control. I’m in control of my own destiny. It’s a lot of girls like me that’s scared to come out, because they feel they’re not feminine enough — but you are enough. When I was younger, I used to feel like I wasn’t enough, but now I know that I’m enough.
That power doesn’t scare you?
It used to, but my voice is so powerful. I feel like I have no choice. This is what I’m here to do, so even if I am scared, it means that I’m normal and I’m human. It happens. Sometimes, I do get scared, but I have no choice to keep going. I have people looking up to me.
Another one of your influences, Missy Elliott, showed love on social media for your performance in Brooklyn at the Future concert. What did that mean for you?
I wanted to ask for her number, but I kept it cool though! It meant everything, because when I look at Missy, it’s not just an artist — I look at her as a creator, as a director. Everything that she did was off the grid, but it was her, and it still made sense, because she’s showcasing who she is. That right there meant a lot to me, because she’s an OG telling me that I did a great job with my stage presence. I can only imagine how many other people I touched that understand that craft of music. That meant a lot to me.
Are there any other co-signs that you’re most proud of?
Snoop and Jadakiss.
That kind of validation must hit differently for you, versus praise from your peers?
It’s like a trophy. It’s like I got the Grammy before the Grammy type of thing, because they’re not just going to say they f–k with something if they really don’t. If they feel something, and they say it out loud, you’re gonna feel them. That’s just my chance to make sure the people don’t look at them crazy [for making those co-signs]. Now it’s my job to make sure what they’re saying is not a lie.
You’ve been in the studio with Conway The Machine and Juelz Santana. Do you feel the need to step your pen game up when you’re locked in working with those caliber of MCs?
My pen game is gonna be stepped up wherever, with whoever, whenever — because it’s not just about having one of the greats in the room and go crazy … whoever is in the room, [I’m gonna] go crazy. Even if I’m doing a record by myself, I do the first verse and the second verse, you better go crazy on Lola. You better be [my alter-ego Big Gator] on the second verse. That’s how I look at it. I don’t even compete with people, I compete with myself.
But at the end of the day, as a young artist, I do look for that kind of validation from the OGs — and if they’re in the room, of course I gotta make sure they know this is real. I’m already prepared, so I don’t gotta worry about that. The pen game is there now. Where the vibes at? Where the energy at?
You’ve accomplished a lot of buzz in the Tri-State. What’s the plan in becoming a mainstream superstar?
Consistency. That’s the main key. That’s the blueprint. Even if s–t wack, put it out so you know what not to do again. Put stuff out so you know what your fans like. That’s the only way you’re going to win. It’s to know the feedback from your fans.
What’s the roadmap for you knowing you’re getting these early looks, like Artists to Watch wins?
It’s self-care, and making sure that I’m healthy, so that I can keep applying pressure — because without me having a stable mentality, none of this can get done. As well as my team. They need to be mentally ready, as well as me, so that we can feed off each other and always come with strategies on how we can win.
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