On Valentine’s Day in 2017, Lola Brooke quit her job as a hotel worker. In her own words, she did it all for “the love of the music.” A day dedicated to expressing appreciation and commitment toward someone you love is one that Brooke used to embrace her burning passion and begin a new chapter that had no telling where it would bring her. Truthfully, the Lola Brooke we know today might not have existed if not for her mother who pushed her to pursue her passion. “She told me to leave my job,” Brooke says about her mother over a Zoom call before speaking about the first time she heard her rap. “She was like, ‘One day I sat down and I was like wait, she is really rapping,’” Brooke recalls. “Then after I was telling her, ‘Ma, I really want to go for it but this job is stressful. I can’t really get into my creativity knowing that I have to make it to work on time in the morning.” Her mother’s response? “You might as well leave.” She also promised to support and lift her daughter’s dreams. “I got you if you need some help, you’ll be aight,” she added. “Just leave, this is your dream. Go for it.”
Lola Brooke did as her mother said and she never looked back.
Almost six years later, Brooke is one of hip-hop’s most exciting newcomers who overflows with potential and shines with riveting spirit for the genre. Need proof? Just look to the weekend before Christmas when A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie brought Brooke out as a special guest during his concert in Connecticut. Brooke sprinted out from stage left to roars from the crowd of 8,000 people as her hit song “Don’t Play With It” blasted from the speakers, along with the crowd who recited it word for word. She was all but fazed by the moment, in fact, she went head-on at it. She pierced through the performance with combative energy and a stage presence that left you to say “damn!” in the end.
“On the way there, I remember somebody saying ‘arena,’ something like that,” Lola says. “So I’m excited from that alone.” In the end, her performance and the moment it was granted her everything that she asked for. “I had fun,” she adds. “It was a good experience. I always said to myself that all I ever wanted was to be in an arena and hear the audience recite my lyrics. So that was one of my goals that I got off my bucket list.”
Lola Brooke’s success in 2022 allowed her to check off plenty from her bucket list. Much of her achievements are tied to “Don’t Play With It,” her hit song that caught fire in the second half of 2022 despite its original release coming the year prior. Brooke’s trademark aggression and fearless raps are live and direct on the track, one she used to air out frustrations about her career at the time. “I was being overlooked!” she says. “Since a little girl I’ve been saying that I wanted to be this entertainer. Sometimes you get discouraged because when you don’t receive the good feedback [that you wanted], it just means that you got to keep working.” Negative feedback wasn’t going to stop Brooke, and neither was the thought of competing. “[There’s] a lot of people that you going up against that want that same spotlight, so regardless if you’re not in competition with everybody else, the people will make you in competition with everybody else. So you got to find a way of being different so that you won’t get caught up in the drama and still win.”
While she undoubtedly wears her heart on her sleeve in the rap game, Brooke also wears Brooklyn on it as well. She’s called the city home for all of her life, and though her success may pull her to different corners of the world, she knows that some things will never change. “Brooklyn is in me, and I’m proud to wear that skin every day,” she boasts while also noting its undeniable presence in her music. “I write about what I see – who I am, and it all traces back to where I’m from,” she adds. “You have to visit Brooklyn to understand why I am how I am, the way I’m boisterous, the way I talk, the way I feel. That’s why I have tough skin, because of what I’ve seen or been through.”
So at every moment she can, Lola Brooke reminds us about how long she’s been putting in the work to stand in the spotlight she’s in now. “This is the same flow that I used in 2017,” she quips, for example, in her “Fire In The Booth” on Charlie Sloth’s Apple Music radio show. Win or lose, there was no stopping Lola Brooke, even when others tried to knock her off her spot. “Music is made to make you feel good,” Brooke notes as she reflects on the hard times. “I had to remember that because in the beginning — I’ve always felt like that — but some people they come in and they just want to have a voice just to say that there’s a reason you did something.” Knowing how to control and value the outside noise and not let it affect her too much, proved to be essential for her mindset and staying leveled. “People always want to be a part of your story, but it’s not just being a part of the story, you have to actually help me through the process.”
As for what’s next in the process, Brooke confirmed a project is in the works for 2023, but as for a more specific timeframe, well, that’ll be up to her fans to help her determine. “I’m gonna let my fans choose that energy,” she says. “Imma feel it from my fans to know that yes, it is time to put out a project.” Outside of music, however, her goals for the year are clear. “I just really want to buy my family a big house so that we could just all be in one place at one time every time I come home from work.”
Just a few days after I spoke to Brooke, she earned herself another highlight moment for 2022. Future brought her out as a guest at his Barclays Center concert (another arena) in her hometown of Brooklyn. Just as we saw during her appearance at A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s concert, Brooke had to crowd in the palm of her hands in Barclays. Stage presence, energy, and crowd control; it was all there without a flaw or misstep. There’s a saying that goes as follows: “once you’re lucky, twice you’re good.” The proof is in the pudding and Lola Brooke is certainly the latter.
“I got a lot in store,” Brooke says toward the end of our conversation. “Just don’t play with her. It’s always gonna be don’t play with her, no matter what I do. That’s it.”
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.