Lola Brooke – 2023 XXL Freshman
- GOV'T NAME: Shyniece Thomas
- AGE: 29
- REPPIN': Brooklyn
- TWITTER: @lolabrooke718
- INSTAGRAM: @lola.brooke
- TIKTOK: @lolabrooke5
- NOTABLE RELEASES: “Don’t Play With It” featuring Billy B, “Here I Come,” “So Disrespectful”; Guest Appearances: Ciara’s “Da Girls (Girls Mix),” NLE Choppa’s “Automobooty,” Flo Milli’s “Conceited (Remix)”
- LABEL: Team Eighty Productions/Arista
- CURRENTLY WORKING ON: Untitled debut project dropping this fall.
- WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “Wow, that’s hard. I’ll put Lady London because she’s an East Coast girl and I relate to her. I feel like she worked hard, and she’s very humble, and she’s a female artist. It’s a win for the girls. I’ve worked with her. I love her, not just musically, but her energy is dope.”
- INFLUENCED BY: “Lil Wayne. 50 Cent. Meek Mill. Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim. DMX. They really raw, unapologetic, gritty and they take their craft really serious. Most of all, they’re legendary.”
- AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “I know I was funny because I’ll be like, ‘I’m not no clown.’ I was funny, though. Very popular, of course, but I mingled with everybody. It didn’t matter what type of crowd you hung with. If I liked the energy, I was rocking with you.”
It was important because I was always an underdog. So, now that I finally got my spot and I fought for it, it’s only right that I get rewarded for a Freshman Class spot. I’m bringing Brooklyn vibes, New York energy. I’m from Brooklyn, son.
XXL just popped in my life. It was a big thing. I really don’t have a favorite [class]. I didn’t want to say  because everyone is biased. I feel like everyone says it. That freestyle gave me very much raw. You could tell they just had fun. Most artists overthink everything that they do. I have problems with that as well. Watching them made me feel like when I do my freestyle, I’m not going to overthink it. If you mess up, keep going, because that’s the rawness of it.
I feel like this is the perfect year because I’m ready. I prepped myself. I’m not overthinking as much as I used to. And I believe in God. So, whenever my time comes, that’s my time and I’m just going to take it.
[When the cover comes out] it might be a block party. I’m most excited for [my fans] to see the cypher. That’s what my city wanna see. They wanna see me rap.
I think it’s important to take these opportunities because it shows that you’re not scared. And this stepping stone right here is preparing me for the next one. I’m different because I’m not scared. I’m in a little body and I’m not scared of nobody. I’m very humble about it and I’m willing to learn.”—Bianca Torres
Watch Lola Brooke's 2023 XXL Freshman Freestyle
Lola Brooke is four-feet, nine-and-a-half inches of pure Brooklyn hip-hop. When it comes to her nostalgic yet contemporary take on rap, they certainly "don’t make ’em" like her anymore. The 29-year-old MC says as much in her 2023 XXL Freshman Freestyle.
She puts the trials and tribulations of her Bedford-Stuyvesant upbringing on front street right off rip. Lola Brooke brings her booming and boisterous vocal tone to the 2023 XXL Freshman Class with storytelling lyrics and flows that are reminiscent of the 1990s-era Brooklyn icons who came before her like The Notorious B.I.G and Foxy Brown. "They don’t make ’em like me no more," she raps after coming through with her signature "Uh-uh, uh-uhhh" intro. "I was raised in a house, we could never lock doors/Locked jaws, talk to the feds, that was not law/Step-pop kept the glizzy in my room, top drawer/I ain't tryna say I'm any different/But if the city see me win, it's gon' feel different."
In a world in which twerk-filled TikToks and Instagram filters are just as prominent as the bars and the beats, other parts of Lola Brooke’s XXL Freshman freestyle find the proud Brooklynite taking a stand against the often-misogynistic practices of the music industry before seamlessly transitioning into her own sense of vulnerability. "I know they tired of seein' me underrated ’cause I'm gifted/But suckin' d**k to the top, I am not with it/Now I got my family talkin' ’bout me instead of helping me out/I thought rumors come from enemies and not from the house," she rhymes.
Lola later spits: "Realized my mother was poor at the age of 18/Bills stayed paid, but it wasn’t what it seemed/She gon' feel offended, Section 8 know what I mean/I just feel your lifestyle should be more like your dreams."
Growing up as an only child raised by a single mother who had to work nonstop in shelters very similar to the ones in which they lived, Lola Brooke began fostering her soon-to-be rap career from a very early age as a means to entertain herself when she was often left alone. Once she graduated from Boys and Girls High School in her Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in 2012, rapping to herself in the mirror transitioned into studio sessions when she was outside of her jobs in retail and at a men’s shelter.
After building some steam with freestyles on SoundCloud in the late 2010s, it was her 2021 track “Don’t Play Wit It” featuring Billy B that allowed Lola Brooke to become a full-fledged member of the rap game’s mainstream. After racking up streams and radio spins throughout 2022, her breakthrough anthem earned the dynamic MC her first spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this past April, immediately following the release of her “Don’t Play Wit It (Remix)” featuring Latto and Yung Miami.
In the months that followed, Lola Brooke signed with Arista Records and tapped her go-to producer, Sharif "Reefa" Slater, for critically acclaimed releases such as "So Disrespectful," which has raked in nearly 3 million YouTube views, and "Just Relax," a block-party banger that samples Black Sheep's 1991 classic, "The Choice Is Yours."
As Lola Brooke continues to make the dream she references in her freestyle a reality as a 2023 XXL Freshman, the not-so-shy-spitter from the ’Stuy always makes it a point to never forget where she came from.
"I was always an underdog," Lola tells XXL during the Freshman shoot. "So, now that I finally got my spot and I fought for it, it's only right that I get rewarded for a Freshman Class spot. I’m bringing Brooklyn vibes, New York energy. I'm from Brooklyn, son."
Watch Lola Brooke show off her New York legacy lyricism in her 2023 XXL Freshman freestyle below.—Joey Ech
Watch Lola Brooke's 2023 XXL Freshman ABCs
Lola Brooke’s pen and personality are both nothing to play with. The 2023 XXL Freshman’s in-your-face breakthrough track, 2021’s “Don’t Play Wit It” featuring Billy B, landed Lola her first spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this past April, debuting at No. 69. However, even through her hard-hitting bars and immediately recognizable New York City flavor, the Bed-Stuy native’s Brooklyn bravado equally matches her endearing disposition as well as her acute sense of humor. All of that is made abundantly clear in Lola Brooke’s version of XXL’s ABCs.
Getting the festivities started from jump street, Lola Brooke highlights her hunger for more with the letter A. “And, because I’ma keep it a buck with you, I always want," she says in the video below. “So, and I want this, and I want that, and also that, you get me?” For B, the 29-year-old MC puts on for her borough. “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn,” Lola exclaims. “’Cause you know I’m from Brooklyn, you gotta know that. And if you don’t know, check the caller ID, you heard? 718.”
Acknowledging her growing fan base, The Gators, with G and making “mommy” proud with M, the “Here I Come” spitter doesn’t forget to show some love to herself and her on-point pen game by the time the letter S rolls around. “Shyniece. That’s my government name, you know,” Lola Brooke declares. “Check the stats. Shyniece Thomas on the writer creds.”
Watch Lola Brooke as she lets her fun-loving ferocity fly in her XXL ABCs video below.—Joey Ech