Lola Brooke arrives at the VIBE office on a Wednesday afternoon, well beyond the time most of the staff would normally have left. Immediately, a jolt of energy enters the room, too. Her smile is competing with the brightness of her future, and the kindness she shows is a pleasant diversion from her aggressive delivery on wax. Despite her small stature, there is a certain “command the room” energy that doesn’t feel forced. You want to listen to her speak. You have to listen to her speak. There’s just something about people from Brooklyn.
Lola carries her city on her back, and the borough’s love was mutual at Future’s One Big Party Tour at the Barclays Center. Much like the hilarious videos circulating across Twitter, she sprinted across the stage and rapped “Don’t Play With It” with conviction. The crowd screamed the song back at her word-for-word, bar-for-bar. There was no shyness or nerves in sight— simply swagger.
“The reason why Brooklyn people are the way they are is because we already done took the pressure already so this is what you get,” Lola told VIBE. “It’s like, how do they say it? ‘Pressure makes diamonds.’ We the diamonds now, the pressure is over with.”
Now, having signed with Arista Records and preparing for her debut project Little Big Mama, Brooke is ready to knock more doors down and welcome new Gatorland members along the way. The joy, anger, and introspection she plans to show in her upcoming tracks prove that this journey is not just one option, but the option.
VIBE caught up with Lola Brooke to discuss the meaning behind being a “Gator,” why she doesn’t have dream collaborations and putting all of her efforts into her “Plan A.”
VIBE: You say “Big Gator,” “Gator Season,” and “Gatorland” a lot in your music. What does being a Gator mean to you?
Lola Brooke: Being a ‘Gator’ is being confident. No matter the size, you’re always big. Being boisterous and being a Gator is being a part of Lola Brooke’s world: Gatorland.
On “Don’t Play With It” you say “I’m still going to make a hundred m’s with a hundred plans.” What were some of those plans? Did you come up with backup plans or was this always the path?
Plan B and Plan C was always Plan A. Always. Those 100 plans can be anything. It don’t necessarily have to be something real direct. It could be you making sure you get up and smile every day and not complain so much. Just a way of living.
You described yourself as boisterous. Your lyrics are very fierce and aggressive. It makes me curious about the comments that your teachers said about you in school.
‘She’s a class clown, but she’s really smart. If she would just stop being a center of attention, she would get everything done in class, but everything’s just a joke to her.’
Did you ever feel insecure or like you had to suppress yourself, or were you always fearless in who you are?
See to the public, I was never insecure, but when I got back home, I had a lot of insecurities that I was dealing with. When I got outside, I covered them for sure.
With the tracks that you’ve released in the past, it could be easy for people to try to pigeonhole you. Was it intentional to slowly peel back the layers of Lola Brooke?
I don’t overthink things. I just do what I feel. Sometimes you get stuck, sometimes you don’t know and it gets hard. I had to showcase all those elements in my music because that’s who I am. I’m moody. I’m emotional. Sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes I’m happy. So it just comes off naturally.
Your debut project is called Little Big Mama. Why did you feel that was the appropriate title?
Because I’m so small with a big voice regardless. Imma always sound like ‘Big Mama,’ even though I’m ‘Little Mama.’
I was at the Future show when you came out. You sprinted across the stage, started the song, then cut it and everyone knew the lyrics. The crowd erupted. Everyone was really hyped for you. What did it feel like to get that reception in your hometown?
I wish I was there right now! It felt good. It was a fun moment for sure. I know they felt it, too, because my city watched me grind. My city watched my whole progress, my journey. I was just excited to share that moment with them.
Did Future hit you up personally?
It’s mutual individuals. Somebody in his camp is cool with someone in my camp. We all came together and agreed on it. I know they say like, ‘Oh, management has the say,’ but the artist has to say, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m jacking.’ So yeah, Future said, ‘Yeah, I want Lola to come on my set.’
Why did you feel like Arista Records was the right label for you?
It felt at home. They didn’t try to change me as an artist. I’ve always heard people try to change something about me, and when I went to Arista, they said they loved everything about me. That was one of the first times I actually heard something like that before.
You’ve said before that you want to be one of the faces of New York City, much like Jay-Z, Biggie, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, and a bunch of different artists. Do you feel like there’s any pressure that comes with that?
No, because the reason why Brooklyn people are the way they are is because we already done took the pressure already so this is what you get. It’s like, how do they say it? ‘Pressure makes diamonds.’ We the diamonds now, the pressure is over with.
I know you’ve connected with Foxy Brown. A lot of people are saying that you give “Foxy Brown vibes.” What’s it feel like to get that comparison?
It feels good because that just shows that I’m straight from the roots. I just know that I watched my peers and that just tells me that I’ve done my homework and I’ve done it well. I completed it with no incompletes.
What are your dream collaborations?
I’m not really big on dream collaborations anymore. As I’ve grown as an artist, I just don’t expect things. I let things happen how they happen. I feel like the OGs don’t owe me anything because most of my dream collabs are OGs. If I don’t ever collab with them, that’s fine as well. As long as I know I’m making them proud, that’s enough for me.
I don’t like using the term “female rappers” or “women rappers” because if you’re a rapper, you’re a rapper, but there is a rising wave of women rappers right now who are doing their thing. What’s it feel like to be part of that movement and really one of the brightest stars currently?
It feels great and it feels welcoming. Shout-outs to the female rappers because we welcomed ourselves basically. We’re comfortable, but we can’t get too comfortable because I already know they coming for us. It’s a vibrant space for sure.