Lola Brooke is Not to be Trifled With

“I’m small, but I feel 10 feet tall; my swag is very Brooklyn,” Lola Brooke says. “I adore this set.” “I should call my mother and show her,” she says before FaceTime. “Look, Mom, I’m on the Jumbotron,” she laughs.

Brooke’s star is rising, and following the success of her debut hit single “Don’t Play With It,” the rapper’s charisma and energy are contagious. “I’m bubbly, but if you say the wrong thing to me, you’ll have some issues.”

Brooke isn’t one to play games. Her 2021 breakout single with Brooklyn MC Billy B touches on that theme and was well received.

Its catchy hook has inspired thousands of TikTok videos (including one from Kim Kardashian and North West), and it peaked at number 34 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts in 2023.

To keep the party going, Brooke released the remix to “Don’t Play With It” with Yung Miami and Latto on Friday. “I wanted to bring more cities into my world,” she tells Complex via email a few weeks after our meeting. “You have Latto from Atlanta and Yung Miami from Miami, and they both love their cities as much as I do BROOKLYN.” The energy level was at an all-time high while filming the music video. We actually shot it in one day on Monday.

I’ll tell you what, the NYPD tried to shut down my video twice, but we were still able to do what we wanted. “Don’t mess with us!”

Brooke recently completed her first international tour as the opening act for A Boogie’s sold-out Me Vs. Myself tour. She regards Boogie as family because they are both from the East Coast. “Boogie is now like a brother to me, and he and his team made sure I was straight the whole time,” she says. “This is my first tour, and to end it in London tonight is incredible.” I’m taking crazy memories from this moment.”

Brooke’s fans were also treated to another gritty single, “So Disrespectful,” earlier this month. Brooke says she wanted the visuals and lyrics to convey the message that “sometimes people respect disrespect before they show you respect.”

Gator Season has finally arrived, and it has been a long time coming. “It’s not how you start, but how you finish,” Brooke says with a smile as she swings her feet from her chair a few inches above the floor. Brooke’s rise to national prominence has been gradual, but it did not occur overnight. The 20-year-old MC claims her grandmother first encouraged her to rap when she was a child. With early support from Cardi B, Meek Mill, and rap legend Lil Kim, Brooke’s dreams of becoming a rapper are becoming a reality.

Brooke had a watershed year in 2022, not only did she release hit singles like “On My Mind” and “Gator Season,” but she also signed her first record deal with Arista Records in collaboration with Team 80 Productions. “I chose Arista because they made me feel special,” she explains. “They made me feel perfect and like I didn’t have to be anyone else.”

So, what’s in store for the 718 princess in 2023? We spoke with Brooke about her hit song, how she navigates the industry, what fans can expect next, and other topics.

Let’s begin at the beginning, with a discussion of young Lola. How did you find growing up in Brooklyn?
Lola was always a daydreamer. Growing up in Brooklyn shaped me; you have to be tough skinned to survive there. As a result, I’m a little rough around the edges. That’s why I always say, “I want a roughneck n*gga on the tongue.”

Who were your role models? And who were some of the people who helped you figure out who you are as an artist?
When it comes to mentors, I always look within, so it will be family or my team. I’m inspired by other artists, but when I sit down and have conversations, it’s a big deal for me mentally.

I need to know you have my best interests at heart, and I need to feel at ease. So mentors are analogous to my family and team. Then there are artists like Meek Mill, DMX, Lil Wayne, Kim, and Foxy who inspire me. Missy is my favourite. I like how she’s so creative and does crazy things that don’t make sense to most people, but you get it.

Do you believe you could have done it on your own? I know you have the support of 80 Productions. How did you come across your team? Many people struggle with this.

Oh, you know, it’s insane. Team 80 tracked me down! I didn’t even bother looking for them. They came to get me. You know what they say about looking too hard for something and missing it. When it came down to the music, I stopped pushing the issues of finding the team. I’ve kind of given up on it. They tracked me down.

Did I believe I was capable of completing this task on my own? No way. It is not possible. You can’t even enter this world by yourself. For example, it takes two people to make one person. You require some sort of cohesion. You must have some level of trust and loyalty. I couldn’t do it without my team right now. Because it’s more than just music. You’ve got to be mentally ready for it as well.

So, what advice would you give to aspiring artists who are still looking for a team?

It may sound crazy when you’re in the music business, but you can’t be in it for the money. Because if you’re in it for the money, or whatever your incentives are, you’ll meet the same people. So you’ll meet people who will take advantage of you. Because if you use a product solely for the purpose of making money, that is exactly what you will get. That energy will not be forthcoming. You’re not going to feel anything. Because you’re looking in the wrong places for the wrong things. I would tell an artist to be themselves and to take their time. First, educate yourself so that you could know how to maneuver.

So let’s talk about your single “Don’t Play With It,” and tell me about the recording process.

I was on FaceTime with Dizzy, the producer, and he called me one night while playing beats. I heard a beat he made for me. “Empire” was the name of the show. “Yo, send that to me right now,” I said. I eventually went to the studio, and it just came out. I felt like I was being played with, which was fine with me because, at the end of the day, I’m going to be the winner.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m a Brooklyn drill artist, I would say I’m an artist that knows how to tap into Brooklyn drill.”

I just wanted to share the track with someone because it was so big. So I said, “I’ll put Billy B on it.” Female Brooklyn artist from the borough of East New York. I believe she understands me, and I believe she understands me. We’re not all that different. Female artists have it tough out here. Look, I told her, we could take over Brooklyn. I really did tell her that we could take over Brooklyn. They must investigate what is available. And she said, “I’m with it.” And there you had it.

Were you surprised that it took some time for everyone to figure it out?

I always thought “Don’t Play With It” was unique, but I didn’t think it was that unique! And for it to take off in the next year and a half, almost two years, it’s incredible to me. But I can say that I’ve never given up on a record. Not because I thought it would be a hit, but because it was my music and I wanted to share it. I’m supposed to maintain my consistency. Of course, I worked on and released other records, but all of my records deserve the same attention. And this is my job as an artist. So I didn’t give up because I liked it.

What did you think when you saw North and Kim TikToking to your song and other celebrities’ songs?
I’m a big fan of mother-daughter relationships. For example, I adore my mother. So the mother-daughter team got me with that one. On top of that, I didn’t believe it was real. On my way home, one of my fans sent me Kim and North listening to “Don’t Play With It,” and I told myself, “This is not my life.” This is not true. I remained silent for about 30 minutes.

Tell me what you think about the Brooklyn drill. How do you react when people call you a drill artist?
What are my thoughts on the Brooklyn drill? Okay, let’s get started. I believe it put us back on the map because they were attempting to put a front on us. We’re doing what we enjoy, which is being creative. It’s a genre that people can feel because, I’m sorry to say, that’s what we see when we go outside. We are not safe in our own homes. Many children have grown up angry at home. I was among them. And when they don’t have anyone to vent to, they go to the studio and vent and say how they feel.

I wouldn’t call myself a Brooklyn drill artist; rather, I’m an artist who understands how to use Brooklyn drill. But I’m not really a Brooklyn drill; I’m just a straight artist.


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