She may be small in stature, but rapper Lola Brooke (neé Shyniece Thomas) has a delivery and flow that commands your attention. At just four feet, nine inches, the Brooklyn—Bed-Stuy to exact—lyricist has made her way up the charts, while letting the world know, she's not to be played with.
What many don't know, is that she comes from humble beginnings. While she's never shied away from her backstory, Lola Brooke recalls the days growing up in public housing, working alongside her mom in a local men's shelter to earn extra cash. She would spend her days serving others and then her nights grinding to perfect her craft.
"When I was working at the shelter, I was so stressed out, because it wasn't something I really wanted to do. But, I had to make some type of money and I had responsibilities. My mom was so supportive, though. She finally gave me her blessing to resign from the shelter because she knew rap was my dream. She saw me going in and out, every day, getting no sleep. But she told me, 'if this is your dream, and you believe in it, then I believe in it.' And, that was just the motivation I needed."
The "Don't Play With It" emcee admits that she misses the shelter environment. Not necessary for the work, but for the people she interacted with and the stories she heard—as they all pushed her to do her best in life and to want more for herself overall.
Fast-forward to present day, and she's literally everywhere. She was recently a special guest for iHeartRadio’s Living Black!” 2023 Block Party, an event inspired by the culture, history and innovation of Black culture and hip-hop. She's been hitting some of the hottest stages, including: Rolling Loud Miami, Hot97's Summer Jam and the BET Hip Hop Awards. And, with each performance, she's finding her cadence and her identity—which was a big reason why she tapped entertainer Teyana Taylor to help her perfect her on-stage delivery.
"It was one of the best experiences I've had in my career so far. I've watched Teyana since I was young and to work with her, and hear her tell me I'm doing a great job, it meant so much to me," she shares. "I trust her, and she really gave me a new level of confidence and the push I needed. Like, she is about her business, so that was really a dream come true for me."
Working with Taylor was just the first of many dream team-ups for Lola Brooke. She also recalls being able to work with Philly rapper Meek Mill, and how she's always looked up to him as a rapper.
"Meek Mill was one of three rappers that made me say, 'if he can do it, then I can do it.' I remember watching his journey, and then I got to collab with him. That was a dream of mine."
If you've followed the "So Disrespectful" rapper's story, then you know much of her early career was her dropping hard-hitting freestyles from the streets of Brooklyn. With just her and a mic, the young talent would deliver a set of bars, with a tone and rawness so rugged that many people thought it was unreal. But for her, remaining true to her authentic self in her approach is the only way she feels most comfortable.
"I feel like when it comes to women in rap, we should have a choice in how we want to deliver. I have always been intentional on being myself, because when I'm not, it just doesn't feel good to me. If I'm trying to be something else, it doesn't inspire me to keep going. So how I deliver is really important to me."
Much of her inspiration can be credited to her beloved Bed-Stuy, a neighborhood that has produced some of the world's most talented rappers and lyricists. For Lola Brooke, being from Brooklyn has engrained a certain hustle in her naturally.
"I always say being from Brooklyn, it's just in us."