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“I’m really small, but I feel like I’m 10 feet tall; my swag is very Brooklyn,” Lola Brooke says. “I love this set. I should call my mom and show her,” she says before proceeding to FaceTime her from Complex studio one. “Mom, look, they have me on the Jumbotron,” she laughs. 

Brooke’s star is rising, and after the momentum she gained from her introductory 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, there will be some problems.” 

Brooke is not one for games. Her 2021 breakout single with Brooklyn MC Billy B touches on that subject, and was met with open arms. Its memorable hook has inspired thousands of moments in TikTok videos (including one from Kim Kardashian and North West); it also peaked at number 34 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts in 2023.

On Friday, Brooke delivered the remix to “Don’t Play With It” with Yung Miami and Latto to keep the party going. “I wanted to bring more cities to my world,” she explains to Complex over email a few weeks after we meet. “You have Latto from Atlanta and Yung Miami from Miami and they both go hard for their cities like I do for BROOKLYN. The energy was to the ceiling while shooting the music video. We shot it [in] one day this past Monday, actually. I’ll tell y’all this, the NYPD tried to shut my video down twice but we still were able to all do the things we like to doooo. Don’t play with us!”

Brooke recently hit the road for her first international run as the opener for A Boogie on his sold-out Me Vs. Myself tour. With them both being from the East Coast, she looks at Boogie like family. “Boogie is like a brother to me now and he and his team made sure I was straight the entire time” she says. “This is my first tour and to end things off in London tonight is so dope. I have mad memories to take from this moment.”

Brooke also blessed her fans with another gritty single, “So Disrespectful,” earlier this month. Brooke says the message she wanted to send with the visuals and lyrics is that “sometimes people respect disrespect before they show you respect.” 

Gator Season is upon us, and it’s 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 a few inches above the floor from her chair. Brooke’s climb to national attention has been steady, but it didn’t happen overnight. The 20-something MC says her grandmother first encouraged her to rap when she was a young girl. Now, with early co-signs from Cardi B, Meek Mill, and rap legend Lil Kim, Brooke’s dreams of rap superstardom are finally becoming a reality. 

2022 was a pivotal year for Brooke; not only did she treat fans to other preeminent singles like “On My Mind” and “Gator Season,” she also signed her very first record deal with Arista Records in collaboration with Team 80 Productions. “I chose to be with Arista because they made me feel special,” she says. “They made me feel like I was perfect and I didn’t have to be anyone else.” 

So what’s next on the horizon for the 718 princess in 2023? We caught up with Brooke to get the full story on her hit song, and discuss how she navigates the industry, what fans can expect next, and more.

Let’s start from the beginning; let’s talk about young Lola. What was it like growing up in Brooklyn? 
Little Lola was always a dreamer. Growing up in Brooklyn shaped me, you got to have tough skin because things get rough out there. So that’s why I’m a little rough around the edges. That’s why I say “I want a roughneck n*gga on the tongue”.

Who were your mentors? And who are some of the people who inspired you while trying to figure out who you are as an artist?
Well, when it comes down to mentors, it’s always in house, so it will be family or my team. I’m inspired by other artists, but when I sit down and have conversations, mentally, it’s a big thing for me. I have to trust you. I have to know you got my best interest and I got to feel comfortable. So mentors would be like my family and my team. And then I’m inspired by artists like Meek Mill, DMX, Lil Wayne, Kim, and Foxy. I love Missy. I love that she’s so creative and she just does wild things that don’t make sense to the people, but you get it.

Do you think you could have done it alone? I know you have team 80 Productions behind you. How were you able to find your team? A lot of people struggle with that.
Oh, you know, it’s so crazy. Team 80 found me! I didn’t even go look for them. They came for me. You know what they say, when you look too hard for something, you overlook it. I stopped pushing the issues of finding the team when it came down to the music. I kind of like, gave up on it. They found me.

Did I feel like I could do this by myself? No way. Not possible. You can’t even come into this world alone. Like, you need two people to make one person. You need some type of unity. You need some type of trust and loyalty. Without my team, I could not do this right now. Because it’s not just music. You got to be mentally ready for it as well.

Image via Lola Brooke

So what would you tell up-and-coming artists that are still searching for their team?
When you’re in the music business, it sounds crazy, but you can’t be in it for the money. Because if you’re in it for the money, whatever your incentives are, that’s the type of people that you’re going to meet. So you’re going to meet people that are going to use you. Because if you’re using a product just for money, then that’s what you’re going to get. You’re not going to get that energy. You’re not going to get a vibe. Because you’re looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. I would say to an artist, just be yourself and take your time. Learn yourself first so that you could know how to maneuver.

So let’s talk about your single, “Don’t Play With It,” talk to me about the process behind the record. 
I was on FaceTime with Dizzy, that’s the producer, one night he called me playing beats. I heard a beat that he played for me. It was called “Empire.” I said, “Yo, send that to me right now.” I ended up going to the studio, and it just came out. I felt like I was being played with, which I was OK with because, at the end of the day when the game is over, 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.”

The track was so big, I just wanted to share it with somebody. So I was like, I’ll put Billy B on it. Female artist from Brooklyn, right out of East New York. I feel like she understands me, I understand her. We’re no different from each other. It’s hard out here for female artists. I told her, look, we could take over Brooklyn. I really said those words to her, like, we could take over Brooklyn. They need to see what’s out there. And she was like, I’m with it. And there it was.

Were you surprised that it took a little while before everyone started to catch on to it?
I always felt that “Don’t Play With It” was special, but I didn’t think it was that special! And for it to take off, probably like the next year and a half, almost two years, it’s wild to me. But what I can say is that I never gave up on a record. Not because I felt that it was going to be a hit, but because it was my music and I put it out for a reason. I’m supposed to stay consistent. Of course, I worked on other records as well and put them out, but all my records should get the same love. And I’m an artist and this is my job. So I just didn’t give up on it because I like the record.

What did you think when you saw North and Kim making TikToks to your song and the other celebrities?
Well, I’m a big mom-and-daughter fan. Like, I love my mom. So the mom and daughter duo, they got me with that one. And then on top of that, I didn’t think it was real. In the car on my way home one of my fans sent me Kim and North listening to “Don’t Play With It,” I said, this is not my life. This is not real. I stayed quiet for like 30 minutes. 

Talk to me about your thoughts on Brooklyn drill. How do you feel when people say that you’re a drill artist? 
How do I feel about Brooklyn drill? All right, here we go. I feel like it put us back on the map because they were trying front on us. We’re doing the things that we like to do, being creative. It’s a genre people can feel because when we go outside, I’m sorry to say, but that’s what we see. We don’t feel safe in our own homes. A lot of kids have grown up angry at home. I was one of them. And sometimes they don’t have anybody to vent to, so they go to the studio and they vent and say how they really feel. So shoutout to Brooklyn Drill for putting us back where we need to be.

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. But I’m not really in the Brooklyn drill category, I’m just a straight artist.

Image via Lola Brooke

Was there ever a moment that you realized, like, “Oh, my God, my dreams are really coming true?” Talk to me about what that moment was like.
My mom would tell me I’m a celebrity and I’m famous, and I’d be like, no, I’m not. I still don’t feel it. I don’t know why. I think about the Barclays moment so much just so I could say to myself, all right, you made it, but I don’t feel like I made it yet.

It’s an exciting time for women in New York rap right now. Tell me about your experience and how important it is to stick together. Speak on female empowerment. 
I’m a big fan of female empowerment, that’s the only reason why I put a female artist on my song “Don’t Play With It.” As a female artist in New York City, you see how I talk? They’ve been hearing this their whole entire life. They go home and they hear people talk just like me, and they see people act just like me, and we have the same energy. I am the culture of New York City. When I came out they were telling me that I’m too aggressive––it’s bullshit. I’m your sister. I’m just like your auntie, I’m just like the same girl that your mom used to be. I’m that. And if you feel like that’s what you want to be, and that’s who you are, then that’s who you are and we have to stick together because they feel like we’re not strong enough. And especially if it’s just us by ourselves. So when we are together, they can’t take it. Don’t change for nobody.

What’s your rapport like with the other New York women artists? Who would you say you’re closest to?
Who I would say I’m closest to? I don’t want to say I’m closest to anyone, I feel like we all have our individual vibes. I work with Maliibu Miitch. Maliibu Miitch is so fire. Like, her energy is just crazy, and she just never changed. 

So what does making it mean to you? What’s your end goal? What do you want to happen in your career where you’re like, ‘OK, this is it?’
When I know I’m 100 percent mentally stable and wealthy and healthy, I want to get to the point where I could be anywhere in the world, and I don’t have to worry about my family members or my team. Like, I know they’re OK because I made sure I worked hard enough so that they could be somewhere that’s going to make sure they’re straight. That’s all I ask for.