Lola Brooke Reflects On How ‘Dennis Daughter’ Impacts Hip Hop 50

The hardcore Brooklynite goes deep with her upbringing, album and year in review.

We’re in a renaissance of female rap, from alternative punk to a gritty 16 bars. Hip-hop is constantly evolving, and women are doing it all. No longer are there limited options when putting together your ladies’ night playlist; there’s an endless pool of women in hip-hop challenging the musical norms.

For Lola Brooke, hip-hop molded her perception of self-expression. Growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant of Brooklyn as an only child, Shyniece Thomas spent a lot of time with herself, and through any moment, good or bad, she could come out of her shell in her music. “I express myself all the time,” Brooke tells GU. “I realized that I’m doing music because I’m telling my story, and it has been like that from the jump.” Music was the outlet she needed to reach her purpose and now at 29, she embodies the tone of a hardcore Brooklynite with a slick flow that adapts to the pulse of any track. Like many emcees, she used poetry to release her emotions and soon realized she could effortlessly ride a beat.

Hip Hop artist, Lola Brooke, co-hosts the Hip Hop Museum Tour preview night, in partnership with Mass Appeal and sponsored by CÎROC Ultra-Premium Vodka in New York on October 13th. Photo Credit: Isaac Campbell/ Moresoupplease LLC

Though the raptress has a five-foot frame, her raps are aggressive, with a sharp inflection that raised the ears of many listeners. Brooke’s breakout single “Don’t Play With It” featuring Billy B cemented her as the femcee to watch earlier this year. From the moment we heard, “I just want a roughneck n-gga on the tongue,” it opened the floodgates of nostalgia she brought to hip-hop. 

From the viral hit, she went from stage to stage, performing at Hot 97’s Summer Jam concert and tapping Latto and Yung Miami for the “Don’t Play With It” remix. Brooke’s trajectory continues to rise, and although everything is moving at warped speed, she’s still a woman in her 20s-somethings trying to figure it out. “I haven’t come out of my shell all the way, and I’m still trying to accomplish that,” she says. I’m still testing the waters, and I haven’t given my all yet, and that’s okay because I’m just going at my own pace.” It almost seems impossible to think that all of her success and recognition happened in less than a year.

Her sound felt reminiscent of the 1990s with a modern flair, creating the key to virality. She continued to tend to her skills and prepared for the moment we would hear her debut album, Dennis Daughter. The title stems from her childhood nickname, consisting of 12 tracks documenting her journey as an up-and-coming artist. “Making this project, I gave it my all because I finally got my chance to show the world my talent, [and] I didn’t back down, not one bit,” she says. 

Brooke opens the album with “Intro (2023 Flow),” detailing her most profound thoughts about her upbringing and childhood. “When I needed love from my pops, they imprisoned him/ Would’ve been f-cked if I didn’t grow as Dennis kid,” she spits. Throughout the album, she continues to rap from a deeper perspective on topics such as fame and mental health. “Word to my mother I be feelin’ so empty,” Brooke raps. According to the Newport Institute, a recent study shared that rap references to depression or depressive thinking doubled from 16 to 32 percent. 

Even though she’s no stranger to vulnerability, this chapter felt different as she felt scared for listeners to hear her tap into things that made her uncomfortable. Brooke revealed how anxiety is getting the best of her when opening up in the social media realm. The internet has created a space where fans have become entitled to the lives of artists, and it can be overwhelming for a rising star to adjust. Although we’re at the pinnacle of female rap, there’s a lack of privacy when creating the formula for a successful femcee. “I’m constantly learning that I’m still in my shell,” Brooke tells GU. “I don’t mind giving it all, but I don’t want to give too much too fast because my fans would get lost in that.”

What keeps her going the most is the fanbase she’s building: The Gators. Brooke reminisces on the time a dedicated fan was deeply touched by her story. “At one of my shows, a fan was having a panic attack because they couldn’t take that, that I was really in front of their face,” she explained. “I got to connect with them and told her I’m just like her. You never know who you can meet. I appreciate this journey because it meant a lot to me and kept me going.”

Lola Brooke Toasts with CÎROC, at Album Release Party in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Gabe Shutherspeed

Though it can be hard for her to live in the moment of her major wins, the reaction of her tribe reassures her. “To see them be so joyful with all my accomplishments, that’s what sticks,” she says. “As an artist, It doesn’t stop from here, and I’m ready to accomplish more goals.”

As she celebrates 50 years of hip-hop, the “You” rapper focuses on becoming a significant figure for the next generation, from music to major brand deals. Brooke recently partnered with CÎROC and Mass Appeal to kick off the New York stop of the Hip Hop 50th Anniversary Museum Tour, bridging the gap between companies and rap music. “I’m grateful to just be in the space of a company like CÎROC because I get to be myself,” she says. “That’s a big thing for me when deals don’t try to change me; they just enhance who I am.”

With so many new opportunities surrounding her, although it’s hard for her to stop and reflect on her major accomplishments, Brooke continues to represent the Big Gator of Brooklyn, bringing spice and flair through her bars and melodies. She continues to move by her own rules in the industry, and she looks at each victory as motivation. “I’m looking forward to being the face of New York City,” she says. 

About Kenyatta: Clark Atlanta University and Medill School alumna Kenyatta Victoria is the Girls United writer covering everything from news, pop culture, lifestyle, and investigative stories. When not reporting, she’s diving deep into her curated playlists or binging her favorite comfort shows.

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