It’s Christmas time, again. It feels like we were ringing in 2022 yesterday but it feels like time is moving at an unfathomably rapid pace these days.  As we’ve done in the past, HotNewHipHop returned with our annual 12 Days Of Christmas series where we chop it up with some of your favorite rappers, musicians, athletes, and entertainers about their annual highlights.

Kicking off the series is one of the most exciting new voices out of New York City this year, Lola Brooke. Like many of her contemporaries, the Bed-Stuy native had her big break off of TikTok with the success of “Don’t Play With It.” The adrenaline-pumping production and her charismatic delivery became a hit after her “From The Block” performance began to garner attention. However, once TikTok got a hold of the record, it formed a life of its own. Cardi B, Kim Kardashian and North West are among Hollywood’s elite of the strength of “Don’t Play With It.” At the same time, she’s landed on the radars of formidable MCs like Pusha T and Meek Mill, who’ve shown her nothing but love in recent times.

“I used to say, when I put the song out, I said to my team, ‘Don’t Play With It’ could really be a thing.’ I just thought it could be a thing on TikTok. Like, imagine kids playing with things they not supposed to be playing with. Things that are dangerous. Don’t Play With It, Don’t Play With It, Don’t Play With It,” she told HotNewHipHop.

Lola Brooke. Photo Credit: Felicia Abban
Photo Credit: Felicia Abban

What really sold people was the authenticity of Brooklyn that seeps through each bar. The night before our interview, Lola Brooke performed at the Barclay’s Center during the Wizards vs. Nets halftime show – the same night Ab-Soul linked up with Jay-Z. As a Bedford-Stuyvestant native, that performance stands as a highlight of her year. If not for performing in one of the biggest stages in her borough, then for being able to showcase her talent in front of the biggest export out of Bed-Stuy.

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“When he sees you, remind him of where he came from. And he be proud that he came from where he grew up from,” she recalled telling herself during her performance.

For the first installment of 2022’s 12 Days Of Christmas, we chopped it up with Lola Brooke to discuss co-signs from Pusha T & Kim Kardashian, embodying Brooklyn, and so much more.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

HNHH: For those that aren’t familiar with you, who is Lola Brooke? How would you describe Lola Brooke?

Lola Brooke: I would describe Lola Brooke as the round-the-way girl from Brooklyn, New York that’s just comfortable in her skin, very boisterous and… a people person when she wanna be.

I read that you started kind of getting into music at a really young age. Who is the first person to encourage you to pursue music?

I would say, my cousin. He’s probably like a year younger than me. We started doing music together so we encouraged each other like, “Yo I think we can do it.” He was the one that was more into the production of it. He figured out how to record us. He figured out how to make our cuts clean when we were on Pro Tools. He figured out how to get the instrumentals on Pro Tools, figured out how to bounce it, and stuff like that. I was more vocal like, “we should do this and put that in,” and he just knew how to put the flavors to it and everything like that. So I would say my cousin. His name is Jah.

You emerged as a fierce rapper with strong lyricism but you’ve shown a more versatile sound with “On My Mind.” Why is it important to showcase your versatility at this point?

It’s important to showcase it because it’s me. I want the people to know who I am, I want them to know me. Not 100%, of course, because it’s impossible for the world to know me 100%. They don’t hang out with me or know the things that I deal with daily by my side. They just get to see what I go through.

But, I do feel that is very important as an artist to get the people to know who you are so that when they out there defending you – ‘cause your fans, they gonna go out there and make sure you get whatever you need. Whatever you deserve. You need to make sure that when they go out there, they know how to represent you.

So that’s why it’s so important for me to just tap into different genres of music because, at the end of the day, this is really how I feel. And I never want my fans to be confused about something because I don’t do it enough and I don’t want them to feel like I’m just trying things. I’m not just trying it. This is actually who I am.

Lola Brooke. Photo Credit: Felicia Abban
Photo Credit: Felicia Abbam

What drives you to be that creatively unapologetic and fearless?

I would say my upbringing. My mom was so very solid and strong and she always told me, “if someone was to tell you something, you go research it. You don’t ever believe it.” Or she’d say, “Don’t ever take no for an answer.”

She would send me out to the store and I would be like, “they said they didn’t have anymore,” and she’d be like, “so why you ain’t tell them to go in the back and see if they have some in stock in the back?” I’d be like, “I don’t know” and she’d be like “don’t ever let no one tell you no unless you know for sure.” So now, when I do my music, it’s like, I don’t care what you think or what you say, because at the end of the day, what I’m saying is accurate because my mom always made sure that I went and researched if it was or not. And even if I am wrong, I’m still human and I make mistakes. So I shouldn’t be so apologetic to everything because we’re here to make mistakes. Before you walk, you gotta crawl.

You come from a place that obviously has such a strong hip-hop history, so I wanted to know for yourself, who are the artists in your area that inspired you?

I could say Kim, Foxy, Jay-Z, Biggie. Top four right there. I mean, it sounds biased I know but that’s what it is really.

For sure. Do you remember when you were younger seeing any of the legends in your area or anything like that?

Nah, because I was a baby so I was put on to these people by my parents or my uncle or anything like that. I didn’t know who these people were. When I was growing up, they was on TV but in the very beginning – you know how everybody had that… “Oh my god, this is Kim. Oh my god, this is Biggie. Oh my god, this is Jay.” I got all of those people when it was already, like, stamped. They already had their big breakthrough.

I was a student. My parents were just putting me on to things that they grew up on. So I grew up on it ‘cause that’s what my parents listened to in the house. So no, I didn’t really get to see them around in that neighborhood or anything like that because I was still a student in school. But I made it my business to lock it in my head, though, and I still see videos because it’s my culture. I’m from Bedford-Stuyvesant, I’m gonna see it regardless.

Outside of Brooklyn, who else would you say inspired you?

Alright, we got 50 Cent, we got DMX, we got Missy Elliott, Eve, Meek Mill, Lil Wayne. I know I’m missing some people… ah, that’s it. I’m a just kick it with that for right now.

For sure, I heard you say that “Cannon” is your favorite –

Oh, 2Pac!! I love 2Pac, love him. And yes “Cannon” is my favorite song. It’s like my top three favorite songs from Lil Wayne. I don’t wanna say it’s my favorite song yet. I think it is, but I say top three just in case I wanna bump it like “oh wait, this one is!” But it might be my favorite Lil Wayne song, for real, for real.

It’s just in my aura. It’s just in me. I don’t know who else to be but Brooklyn.

So if it’s top three what would be the other two in that list?

I don’t know! I don’t know! I’m just saving them two spots. I was saving it ‘cause I might be bumpin’ to a song and be like, “oh, this is the one!” You know how you be like, “oh I’m tripping, I forgot about this one,” so I saved two spots cause he’s that great, that I’m like, “nah, there has to be another one.”

For sure. You’ve been described as the new face of New York. I wanted to know, what kind of pressure comes with that title?

There’s no pressure at all because I’m so Brooklyn, that It’s just my demeanor. It’s just in my aura. It’s just in me. I don’t know who else to be but Brooklyn. I don’t know. It’s just so in me to the point where I forget that it’s so much in me. People remind me and are like, “yo, you sound like the most average Brooklyn girl that I could have ever in my life imagined, like, you’re so Brooklyn.” And I’m like “for real?” And then I get home and I’m like, “yeah, for real. I’m Brooklyn, for real.” It’s no pressure, just be yourself. Brooklyn raised me so it’s no pressure. Like I said, even if I make mistakes, I know they gonna have my back because they know I’m fighting for them. So they gonna make sure I correct it on the next go around.

As someone from Brooklyn, how would you differentiate Brooklyn drill compared to music coming from other boroughs of New York?

Ok so… the difference really is the tempo. That might be about it. It might just be the tempo. It’s just that – Brooklyn drill is like a New York swag on UK beats. And then you got Chicago drill, and that’s just Chicago drill. Like, that’s their lane. They have their own little beat selection like you know when it’s Chief Keef. You know when it’s a G Herbo beat. You just know. That’s their thing over there. But with Brooklyn, it’s mixed in with UK. It’s a UK beat with Brooklyn swag. That’s it. And then, the Bronx drill is a different tempo. Now, I should say that. The Bronx has the different tempo. No matter how the beat is, it’s how they cadence is on the beat. [Starts mimicking the Bronx drill flow]. It’s just a different cadence.

For sure, but then you also see what’s happening in New Jersey right now and it’s like, they’re mixing a lot of that club stuff into it. Like it’s still very drill but you get that bounce.

Right, it’s a different tempo. It’s a whole different segment to it. That’s New Jersey drill. New Jersey club mixed with drill.

Do you think that this new wave of drill is kind of putting New York back to the top of the hip-hop city rankings so to speak?

Yeah. To be honest, Brooklyn drill is the reason why New York is back on the map, for sure. Not to say that Brooklyn drill is going to be the genre to keep us on the map because that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to change that segment and keep us on the map but not necessarily saying, “oh, it’s because of drill.” Alright, drill put us on the map, now we got other genres that could keep us on the map and that’s what I’m trying to do.

I wanted to just talk about “Here I Come” real quick. There’s one line on “Don’t Play With It” that really stood out to me and then you made another reference to it on “Here I Come.” But, the bar that I’m talking about you say, “still don’t got 100 bands.”Why is that transparency so important to your songwriting and your approach to music?

I feel that it’s better to tell the truth than to lie because every time you lie you have to always figure out – remember your lie. I don’t wanna have to remember my lie. And then I want my fans to know who I am and grow with me. So when I tell them I ain’t got 100 bands, they gonna want to help me get that 100 bands. And when I finally get that 100 bands, they gonna wanna help me get that 100 million.

So it’s just for my fans to grow with me and to show them that I’m just like you. You might wake up one day and feel like you don’t know how you’re gonna pay your bills. Sometimes I wake up and I be like, “Oh snap, I paid my bills. I don’t know how I did it but I paid my bills.” And then it’s ok to fantasize. So sometime in my music I will probably say bossed up stuff about like jewelry and money and stuff ‘cause I do have jewelry and things like that.

But, you treat yourself and your process. Sometimes you deserve nice things. You might not get it as much as these celebrities get it but when you do get it it means the most to you. So when I have it, I don’t just wanna neglect the nice things that I do have because I worked hard for it. It’s just relatable. It’s true. There’s more pain in the world than happiness, honestly.

Outside of rap music what else would you like to do with your career in the future?

I wanna get into acting. I wanna be an actress, for sure. Like, I wanna be on a movie screen for sure.

Lola Brooke. Photo Credit: Felicia Abban
Photo credit: Felicia Abban

I think I heard you discuss that you tried to land a role on Power. Am I far off with that?

No, I was telling them, ‘what’s up? Lemme get an audition or something’ [laughs]. Nah, I never applied or did shit for any part of Power but, if I get the chance to – yes, I will be there. I’m just letting them know like, “Hey look, I’m here. If you need me call me.”

If you had the chance to be in any TV show on the air right now, besides Power, what would you be in?

‘Cause you knew I was gonna say Power, right? [laughs]. I wouldn’t mind being on — it’s a Netflix series called Heist. I wouldn’t mind being on there. I like Rap Sh!t. There’s another one… it can’t come to my head right now but there’s one more. But yeah that’s about it.

Do the movies and the TV shows that you watch influence your music in any way?

…And I like Grownish. See, that’s why I like Power and Grownish. It’s real life to me. It’s what happens when I’m outside. I don’t like to go outside too much so when I’m a homebody and I watch those types of TV shows, it reminds me of being outside. It makes me feel like this is what I missed when I wasn’t outside. Because it’s so relatable and it’s so realistic. So that’s why it influences my music ‘cause it’s so real and it’s not fiction.

Just one more question about movies and I’ll move on but just because this is a holiday-themed interview series, I wanted to ask you what’s your favorite Christmas movie of all time.

Home Alone. I love Home AloneHome Alone 1 and Home Alone 2. Just Home Alone series, one and two. Those my favorite Christmas movies ever.

And why? Obviously, it’s a classic. I was gonna say like probably Home Alone 2 just because it’s in New York.

It’s in New York, yeah. And also I was the only child so me growing up watching that– he wasn’t the only child but he had a moment of feeling like the only child. A kid by himself in the house, and that’s how I was. Just figuring out how to have fun, by myself. All day every day. And that’s what he was doing, he just wanted to have fun. It just so happened that they was trying to rob his house.

The other day, a huge co-sign from Kim Kardashian and North West. What was running through your mind when you actually saw that for the first time?

I sat quietly for a good 30 minutes. I sat quiet. I was around people when I first found out, I had just left the venue. I did a hosting in New Jersey. And my fans were tagging me and I watched it and I remember sitting in the car with everybody talking to me but I couldn’t hear them. I just was zoned out.  And they was like, “yo what’s up with you? You not excited?” I kept saying I wish I was home so that I could have this moment to myself in my head because I was going crazy.

I’m like, “there’s no way I just come from this hosting and these people singing my song through the roof and then now Kim and North! I’m dreaming.” And I couldn’t figure out what was real and what was fake so I just was so quiet. Like, really quiet and just staring into space. I was dazed out.

Even with that song being out for like a year before it blew up, how did you feel about TikTok picking up on it?

I used to say, when I put the song out, I say to my team… “‘Don’t Play With It’ could really be a thing.” I just thought it could be a thing on TikTok. Like, imagine kids playing with things they not supposed to be playing with. Things that are dangerous. Don’t Play With It, Don’t Play With It, Don’t Play With It.

I used to always come up with things in my head but I was so busy on perfecting my craft in the studio, that I didn’t really give attention to “Don’t Play With It” that I probably could’ve given it already. But, safe to say I’m doing it now. And then my fans held me down, so I think it was even more dope that my fans came together and figured it out for me so now, it’s something that I can share with the audience. So everything happens for a reason.

I also saw the Pusha T praise the other day. Talk to me about that.We heard a bit of the conversation just because of the video but I wanna hear from your perspective what was going on.

Okay, so he followed me on Instagram before and I didn’t know so I just was like tuning in to his page. He had posted something and I had liked it and commented or whatever, so I went to his page it was like “follow back” and I’m like “what the hell?” I clicked back out and clicked back in and it still said “follow back” so I’m thinking, “how disrespectful am I?” So I followed him, which was so crazy ’cause I was just tapping in. I don’t know why, I had seen he posted something from someone else’s page and I was like “lemme tap into him,” but he was already tapped into me! So I was like “oh, this is crazy.”

So when I seen him at the Billboard event, I was like, “Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe he followed me by accident or something,” and then he was like, “I’m familiar with you, you’re dope.” So I was like, “wooooow, so he tapped into me. It wasn’t a mistake, he tapped in, for real.” It was a blessing, though ‘cause he’s an OG and that’s a real lyricist. He’s telling me I’m dope? That means I gotta go back in the lab and put some more dope shit out. ‘Cause that was epic.

There’s also Meek Mill, I know you two ran into each other recently. Is there any word on a collab on the table? What’s happening with that?

I don’t know, man. I have to call Meek and tell him to tell the people what’s going on. I know, for sure, I told him that I need one. He said that he was with it. So I guess we definitely gonna get it done, for sure. I just don’t know when. That’s on him. He be like “Lo, you ready?” I’m prepared. I’m ready. And that’s my favorite rapper so I’m not really rushing it. My body might be telling me “girl, go run up in there,” but my mental is telling me to be patient. Like, this is somebody that you studied. This is somebody that inspires you. Patience is everything. It’s gonna happen. It has to be perfect. It can’t be rushed. Like, I look up to this man. That moment can’t be rushed. It has to be perfect.

I was just like, “yo, whatever happens out there, you keep going. You show [Jay-Z], you show him –    remind him of where he came from.” That’s all I kept saying.

Just on the topic of Meek, and I know you been a longtime fan of meek, I wanted to know what your thoughts were on Flamerz 5.

I loved it. I felt like it was the old Meek. I was listening to it like, “Wow, he’s back.” And I was saying to myself like, “this is why I wanted to take this rap seriously.” This project reminded me of when I was a kid and saying to myself, “I’m doing it ‘cause he doing it.” He put me back into that space as a little kid and I just was saying to myself, like, “when I go back to the studio, I’m going harder.” He makes me wanna go harder. That’s all.

I wanna touch on Barclay’s Center. How’s that feeling for you right now? That’s gotta be kinda surreal.

It was epic. I loved every bit of it. I don’t regret anything. Any little bumps that I had, like, you know, artists panic before they gotta perform at halftime. I don’t regret anything. I loved every emotion that I went through during that process. It was beautiful. I had my team by my side and everything was just perfect. And I had fun. And I’m very grateful to even touch that floor. For the first time ever in Barclay’s performing.

I actually saw a photo of Ab-Soul with Jay-Z and he tagged the Barclays Center so I wondered if Jay-Z was in the building?

Jay-Z was there! I was trying to be calm but he was there! He was right there! Yo [laughs] I’m about to pass out again. He was there.

Tell me about it. What was that feeling like? 

I was just like, “yo, whatever happens out there, you keep going. You show him, you show him –    remind him of where he came from.” That’s all I kept saying. “When he sees you, remind him of where he came from. And he be proud that he came from where he grew up from.” Like, he be a proud Brooklyn native. Like, you make him proud that he’s a Brooklyn native ‘cause he like, “I knew they were more people in Brooklyn that could actually do the same footsteps that I took.” And I really wanna follow his footsteps, so.

Did you end up getting the chance to cross paths with him or anything?

No! No, I didn’t but it’s cool, though. I just felt his presence. His presence is really strong. I felt his presence in the building. So it was cool.

I mean, at least, he’s familiar with you, right?

Yeah, right? Oh my god, yes! He might forget my name, but he’s seen me.

What’s the biggest highlight of 2022 for you?

Ok hold on, lemme really think about that ‘cause we got Rolling Loud and Halftime at Barclay’s. So that’s kind of tough. That’s really tough. But you know what, I’ma go with performing at the Barclay’s because Jay-Z was there. Yeah, I’ma go with that.

Tell me a little bit about Rolling Loud too cause that’s a big stage as well.

Rolling Loud was epic. I had so much fun at Rolling Loud. The energy was crazy. I manifested that. I always wanted to perform at Rolling Loud. That was one of my goals and I scratched it off.

When can we expect a project from you?

2023 you can definitely expect a project from Lola Brooke for sure.

EP, mixtape, album?

I mean, it depends. that’s why I’m still working now so that I can give my fans. I know what they deserve. They deserve everything but I need my fans to tell me what they need for me. It’s there, but it’s not all the way there yet. I need to still learn them as well as they learn me.

Do you have a title for it yet?

Well, it might change but now it’s Little Big Momma.

What’s the inspiration behind that?

Little body with a big voice.

Do you have any features that you could confirm?

Nope. I don’t have no features to confirm.

So the final question I have for you is what are you most excited about this holiday season?

Seeing my family. That’s it. Seeing my family.

Do you guys do a big gathering over the holidays?

Well, my family is really small so it’s not really — it’s just the energy. I love to be around family because I know that love is real. It doesn’t matter if it’s only ten of us and five are in the room. I’m good with just being around family, period. If we’re not doing nothing, not celebrating