“I put my project name as Dennis Daughter because I wanted to live that moment again. So the world don’t just know me as Lola Brooke. They know me as Dennis Daughter as well.”
Photos // Abi Polinsky
Styling // Phil Gomez
Story // JoAnn Zhang
Makeup // Niasia Boyd
Hair // Essence Banks
Cover Art // Pearl Zhang
PA // Sam Berlin
Lola Brooke may only be four foot and ten inches tall, but her radiant energy and force in such concentration could only be paralleled by a flamethrower. Her performer’s rapture is something new to us; most of us have only heard her online since her Tik Tok-famous breakout hit “Don’t Play With It.” Now, November 2023, she has just finished her first tour with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, whom she regards as something like a brother. But her relationship with him began with a chance opportunity when his team unexpectedly called her to come out during a concert— and she did not let that moment pass idly by.
“The crowd went crazy,” she told me, reminiscing. “The whole entire arena was singing my song, ‘Don’t Play With It.’ And I remember seeing the face on A Boogie— he was just like, oh my god. Sis is turning up.” The next week, she got another call from his team. This time, he was asking her to come on tour.
Jacket, SEKS. Top, BABY PHAT, Boots, JOHN GALLIANO. Earrings, TELFAR. Ring, ALEXIS BITTAR. Barbwire ring, VITALTY.
Now that his 2023 tour has ended and the dust has settled, it is obvious that the world has an eye on her. She was featured in Forbes, and nominated for Best Breakthrough Hip-Hop Artist at the year’s BET awards. Her new album Dennis Daughter, released just this November, has already been featured on the official Grammy website and XXL Mag. But her album probes deeply into her private life and her childhood, an intensely private story the world has not yet been privy to.
The title of the album comes from her childhood spending time with her late father Dennis. “We used to walk my dog Frankie, and people would call me Little D— ‘that’s Dennis daughter, that’s D daughter’— so they would always give me a nickname around him,” she said. “I put my project name as Dennis Daughter because I wanted to live that moment again. So the world don’t just know me as Lola Brooke. They know me as Dennis Daughter as well.”
The careful balance of public and private life Lola cultivates, is also reflected in the album content. Most songs on the album are drill-esque and clubby, and really very catchy. (I have personally added “Don’t Get Me Started,” “Best Side,” and “Pit Stop” to my pregame playlist, and fully expect to be begged for the song name.) But “Intro (2023 Flow)” is Lola’s form of a diary, and although it, like the rest of the album, is catchy and assertively delivered, its contents are much more personal, exploring further her experience as Dennis’ daughter.
“When I needed love from my pops, they imprisoned him,” she writes in that song, “Would’ve been fucked if I didn’t grow as Dennis kid.” The story behind that line, is a story that she only later realized was a tragic one.
“I remember being downstairs in the kitchen with my grandmother, and I heard the bell ringing at my grandmother’s house. And I remember hearing police officers, and walkies and things like that,” she told me. “As soon as I heard it, I tried to run upstairs and my grandmother was like, don’t go up there being nosy. When I went upstairs, the cops were taking my dad, at my grandmother’s house, in his thermals. Like, he just had on his pajamas. I just was like, wow, they wouldn’t even let him get dressed. They arrested my dad in front of my face.”
She added, quickly, “I don’t want people to have sympathy for me. Because when I was growing up, I never knew the things that I was going through was tragic. I thought everybody’s life was like mine’s!” Now that she has grown up however, she is aware of how difficult her experiences would have been for any child, and wants her little cousins to grow up free from such trauma. “I thought this was just a normal life I was living. And the whole time it wasn’t,” she said. “I was being traumatized without realizing it.”
She tells her story for closure, so that she can move on with her life. “But I don’t want people to cry. Like I wasn’t crying,” she said, laughing. “I only started crying now because I’m like, oh my god, you went through that shit!”
Lola’s mother, who raised her as a single parent, is also one of her biggest role models, from her work ethic to her stoicism in the face of hardship. “Growing up, my mom never showed me her pain. She never wore her pain on her sleeves. There was times that I didn’t know that my mother was struggling severely,” she said somberly. “I wouldn’t know what I would be doing right now, with a child and trying to pursue a career, or just trying to make a way of taking care of my family.”
In particular, Lola’s mother is independent, which inspired Lola to leave college partway through. “My mom always told me, your time is everything. So I just came to her, I said, look, I don’t think college is for me. And I’m trying to make some money. It wasn’t for rap, it was just me being independent.”
Full look, REN. Jewelry, NINA BERENATO.
As for her music career, Lola began learning to make music at age 15, recording in her cousin’s living-room studio. She graduated to making music in a professional studio, paying forty dollars an hour to pursue her dreams. “I never thought about giving up. I just was always frustrated about how long it was taking,” said Lola confidently. “But I’ve been patient, because there was just a feeling inside that was telling me, don’t give up. Your destiny is your destiny. So I just kept going because it felt good— you just don’t give up on something that actually gives you a good feeling.”
She chose her stage name “Lola Brooke” from memories in high school, when she had shaved the sides of her head, in a style reminiscent of Lola Bunny from Looney Tunes. “Brooke” comes from Brooklyn, NYC, Lola’s hometown.
Above all else, Lola loves performing; to her, it is an exchange of love, energy and adoration. “I love love. So if I show love and someone shows love back, I feel like that’s how you can move. There’s nothing greater than feeling loved, especially by strangers, you know?” she said. “It makes you just want to keep doing it, because you make an impact on a group of people in the arena. They go back home and they take that moment with them.”
Top, MARINE HENRION (DOORS NYC). Shorts, SEKS. Bracelet, VITALY. Necklace, RORY ROCKMORE.
Her love for performing, exhilarating as it is, has presented problems for Lola, that she expounds on in her new album. One of them is staying present in less exciting moments. “When I’m on stage, I’m having a moment. But as soon as I get off stage, that moment is gone. As soon as I get off stage, I’m trying to feel that feeling again,” she told me. “Onstage, you get to do anything you want, you get to be yourself. And you get the attention. All eyes are on you. Everyone is in that room because of you… that’s a lot of power.”
It is surprising, then, when she mentions that she can be shy. “I have to feel comfortable to be like, really hyped up,” she laughed. “I can be shy but doing music, that shyness just goes away more often. Now, I still have the shyness in me somewhere, but music is having me embrace my other side.” The duality of Lola Brooke, the explosive energy that surrounds her inner, secret self, is perhaps the contrast that makes her music and her personality so compelling. It is the intriguing mix of the traumatic memories with the invigorating purpose of her sound; it is her pleasure mixed with pain, and pain with pleasure.
Dress, JEAN PAUL GAULTIER.
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