WNBA’s Essence Carson Rapping about her First Love
THE FEATURE COLUMN: WNBA’s Essence Carson is known for her basketball abilities, but what her fans are now learning is that music is her first love. She plays the piano, drums, bass, guitar and saxophone. “I started with music in the 5th grade.”
Now as an adult, years of working on her musical talent has the 24-year-old confident to step on stage and share her lyrical abilities as her rap persona Pr3pe. Wary of what others may think because she’s an athlete, Essence takes it all in stride.
Meantime, she’s working on building “that buzz” while splitting her basketball seasons with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and playing ball overseas. “It definitely helps in building a fan base. Just being able to travel, meet people and network throughout the world.”
I recently spoke with Essence while she enjoys the WNBA’s Olympic hiatus. We chatted about her upcoming project Broken Diary, her feelings on the Nets moving out of her native Jersey, and the Don Imus controversy from her college days. Read how she says it actually helped her grow as a person, and why she thinks people should back off on the comments about Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair.
Nicole: Your video Love Letter recently came out. I know it was shot in several different places. Tell me about it, and the response to it.
Essence: The video was shot in New York City. Several places within the city. The most famous one would be The Garden [Madison Square Garden]. The other half of the video was shot in Istanbul, Turkey. We were able to shoot at the Blue Mosque [The Sultan Ahmed Mosque]. Down and around the different bazaars [Turkey's largest covered market]. That was a really cool experience. The funny thing about it, when I was on set shooting a group of kids ran up to me. I guess they were there as tourists. I felt like Michael Jackson. That’s how the response was!
Now that it’s on the internet, I have received a great response from it. I don’t know what people were expecting from me, but they were impressed with the quality and the storyline. Nowadays, a lot of videos don’t follow the song anymore. So, it brought the song to life and made people relate to it more.
Nicole: Now, talk about that more. You’re a professional basketball player, but your first love is music. There have been several male basketball players who’ve launched music careers before. World Metta Peace when he was Ron Artest. Shaquille O’Neal is the most successful, but I think you’re the first woman’s basketball player that I’ve heard launching a rap career. How do people react to that?
Essence: I get mixed responses. I have a lot of people that respect it because they’ve known about my musical abilities before I came to the league. I went to performing arts high school and studied music in college. Then you have the other half who are like: ‘you do music. What do you sing?’ I wish I could sing, but I tell them I rap and I produce. When I let them hear a production or a snippet of a track they’re like: ‘Wow, I want to hear more!’ But, as far as the initial response they think it’s just another athlete doing music.
Nicole: Being that you do produce, did you produce the bulk of the work on Broken Diary?
Essence: About 50% of it. I produced Love Letter, the first single off of it. Right now, I’m working on the actual selection as far as finalizing the track listing. So, I might have even more.
Nicole: So, when is Broken Diary slated to come out?
Essence: The end of the summer, beginning of fall.
Essence: Yeah, I switch it up. Of course. The one thing that’s consistent is the storytelling of my experiences. The reason I named this album Broken Diary is because people always said I seemed like a mysterious person and there was so much more to me. I’m quiet by nature. So, I wrote it down.
Nicole: Okay, let’s talk about your influences. Favorite emcee, period?
Essence: Ah, man! There are a lot of them. I love MC Lyte from back in the day. Queen Latifah when she first came out. Even before she came out with U.N.I.T.Y.
Nicole: Ladies First era?
Essence: Yes! I love the ‘80’s. Roxanne Shante. Moving along to later years, Da Brat. Just how she was able to hold her own among so many guys. Of course, Foxy [Brown] and Lil Kim. I don’t feel I can leave anyone out because everyone has influenced me as an artist. Just being able to relate to what they’re talking about. BUT…. I’m going to have to go with the old MC Lyte! Yeah!
Nicole: Do you battle rap?
Essence: I did back in high school, but I haven’t battle rapped for a long time. I write for the most part, and when I’m feeling great I do a freestyle.
Nicole: In addition to playing in New York, you play overseas. So, do you plan on doing any shows?
Essence: I would love to if the time permits. I had two performances here in the city. They were great. People that saw them want to see and hear more from me. I’m starting to get requests, and overseas I was able to hook up with an artist from Spain by the name of Vanessa Klein. I would love to link up with her and do some shows there. I want to do a show here before I head overseas and carry that momentum with me.
Nicole: That’s definitely a unique dynamic when you think of it. You split your time between the United States and overseas. In both aspects, hip hop is really big. In building a fan base, you have the best of both worlds.
Essence: It definitely helps in building a fan base. Just being able to travel, meet people and network throughout the world. It helps with creating that buzz.
Nicole: Okay, let’s stray away from music talk; and let’s go back to college. You were the captain of your team during the Rutgers and Don Imus controversy. What are your thoughts on him now?
*During a 2007 broadcast, Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as ‘nappy headed hoes’ during a championship game against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Essence: Yup. I have no clue what he’s even doing right now. I’m thankful for that experience. It actually helped me come out of my shell.
Nicole: Thinking back to that situation, what’s your take on the controversy over Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair?
Essence: When you’re competing at the highest level as an athlete and at that age, the last thing you’re thinking about is your appearance. The only thing you have in mind is bringing home the gold. I would like to see what some of these people looked like at 15 years old outside playing ball, or outside playing football. Let’s be serious! I feel like they’re dismissing her great accomplishments by focusing on something that shouldn’t be. It’s really taking away from what she’s done: the first African-American to win gold all around. It’s unbelievable. She’s doing great things for herself, her family and this country. She should be recognized for that and not her hair.
Nicole: Now, since the WNBA’s Olympic hiatus; have you been keeping up with Team USA?
Essence: I don’t watch too much TV, but when it’s on; I’m watching the games. Whether it’s basketball or volleyball, I saw a great volleyball match the other day. On the men’s side, everything track and field, and swimming. So, I’ve been keeping up with Team USA. You have to be a patriot!
Nicole: I know you said you don’t watch much TV, but who are your favorite sports teams you keep up with?
Essence: I keep up with the Knicks. They’re the big brothers. So, you always want to know how your home team is doing. I’m a Jersey girl, and there isn’t a team since the Nets moved.
Nicole: How do you feel about them moving to Brooklyn?
Essence: I can’t front. Brooklyn’s a nice place. I can’t be mad. Part of my family’s from Brooklyn. So, I’m not too upset, but Jersey doesn’t have a team anymore and I’m sad about that.
Nicole: Now before I let you go, how can your fans keep up with you?
Essence: Check out the website: essencecarson.com. They can find information there about me as a basketball player, an artist and a producer. There’s links to my facebook and twitter as well as links to my mixtapes.
For more from writer Nicole Allen follow her on Twitter @AllenNicoleM