Lola Brooke Wants To Be The New Face Of New York City

Courtesy Felicia Abban

Standing at 4’10,” Rapper Lola Brooke is a force to be reckoned with. What she lacks in height, she makes up for in high octane energy that has positioned her as the second coming of gritty New York rap. Representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, her gruff vocal presence comes off as menacing, but beneath the tough exterior lies a vulnerability where she can wax poetic about her life experiences. 

It’s most apparent in her debut album, Dennis Daughter. Her now deceased father was the impetus to naming the project. “I wanted to relive my childhood,” she says. “I used to hang out with my dad, and people would always nickname me, ‘Little D,’ because his name was Dennis. I named the project Dennis Daughter because that’s what shaped me, who I am — he played a big part in my life.”

The Brooklynite’s raw debut put her on many people’s radar’s with her smash hit “Don’t Play With It” featuring Billy B. The popular track even garnered a remix featuring fellow female rap artists Latto and Yung Miami. Brooke, born Shyiece Thomas, also earned multiple accolades in her breakout year, being nominated in the Best Breakthrough Hip-Hop Artist category at the 2023 BET Hip-Hop Awards, and crowned the Breakthrough Artist of the year at Amazon Music – not to mention “Don’t Play With It,” being RIAA certified gold. Though Brooke is just getting some skin in the game, she’s already left an imprint that’s hard to ignore, even in her size 6.5 Timbs. 

Lola Brooke Is A Real, Down To New York Girl

Drawing comparisons to influential female rap icons who rose from the concrete jungle, she stands alongside greats like Foxy Brown, whom she sampled on “You,” with Bryson Tiller, and Lil’ Kim, a fellow Bed-Stuy native. She points back to them both as helping her discover exactly who she is – a woman from Brooklyn. “I expect them to compare me to Foxy and Kim because I’m young girl from Brooklyn, the same exact neighborhood they’re from, so it’s embedded in me. We didn’t choose to be the women that we are, our environment did. I’m a product of my environment, and so that’s why I gravitate to them.” Brooke says. “They made me realize who I am, is who I am. I can’t change it if I wanted to. I’m a Brooklyn girl.”

Outside of fierce NY femcees, lyrically, Lola Brooke is a melting pot of influences, and she’s taken notes from rappers 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, DMX, and Meek Mill. She’s studied each of them, taking some of their star qualities, and making them her own – 50 for the New York swag, Lil Wayne for the punchlines, DMX for his confidence and vulnerability, and Meek Mill because “he had a story to tell.” 

“All of those bottled up, that’s what created Lola Brooke,” the Arista-backed artist tells ESSENCE. Yet and still, Brooke is carving out a lane that is all her own. She’s crafting a sound that’s still authentic to her roots, and yet ushering in new sounds like the rise of NY drill, reminiscent of the late Pop Smoke. 

Despite being from NY, the depth in her voice may come as a shock to her nearly five-foot stature, but over the years, it’s become something the 29-year-old learned to embrace. “I embrace it because all small people love to feel big. I love to feel big. I like to be heard, even if you can’t see me, you can hear me,” she says. However, it wasn’t always an easy task, especially as one of the most prominent opinions amongst record execs was that she was “too aggressive” and “not feminine enough.” Instead of letting it bring down her spirit, she dug deep and remembered just how Brooklyn she is, of course with the help of some of her favorite hometown cultural touchstones, like Spike Lee’s Crooklyn (1994) and Foxy Brown’s “B.K. Anthem.” It’s what she says, helps keep her grounded and her vision clear. 

Below the surface of her rough-around-the-edges demeanor, it’s a story waiting to be told. After taking what the naysayers had to say, she didn’t go back to the drawing board, she decided to go even harder than before. “I started telling my story. There’s a reason I’m like this. I’m not just like this because I woke up one day and was like, ‘hey, I want to be aggressive or I want to rap this way.’ I’m the way I am for a reason,” Brooke says. 

Lola Brooke Is A Real, Down To New York Girl

Though the meteoric rise of the XXL freshman has been swift, where she is today isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem, as Brooke always saw herself as an entertainer. “I knew it was something special about me, I just didn’t know how to get to that point. Through the help of a team, she’s becoming more refined as an artist, with her “big sis,” Teyana Taylor offering her valuable creative direction and development. 

“I’m just so happy to finally tap in with somebody that I was looking up to when I was younger. I didn’t really know my identity because I was questioning it, and she just summed it up for me. She had a Sweet 16, and she came out with a tutu and some sneakers,” Brooke says, recalling Taylor’s MTV Super Sweet 16 episode. “She had skateboards, bikes, and that was me, I would ride my bike all through Brooklyn. So I felt like I’m just like that girl. And we work well together, because I could tell that she believed in me because she pushed me real hard.”

Brooke stays tight lipped about what’s to come in 2024, but did allude that herself and Taylor have more coming soon, plus new music and visuals on the way. “I want to create new moments, that means going on tour and touching the people outside. I want to be the new face of New York City.”

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