New York Liberty basketballer Essence Carson is no stranger to adversity, yet she says that growing up hardscrabble in Patterson, New Jersey taught her the necessary skills to push through when times get hard. Today those lessons are proving more beneficial than ever.
Carson suffered one of the most devastating sports injuries a few weeks ago when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during a game against the Atlanta Dream. She’ll be out for the rest of the WNBA season. But with the perseverance and love for music she developed early on, Essence Carson is using her recovery time to also focus on jumpstarting a rap career. (MC name: Pr3pE, pronounced “preppy.”)
She recently dropped “Hater,” the video for the second single off of her upcoming album, Broken Diary. EBONY.com spoke with Carson about her road to recovery, rap influences and plans to conquer the music industry.
EBONY: Your injury was just a few short weeks ago. How are you recovering?
Essence Carson: I tore my ACL. It’s a pretty serious injury in the world of sports. The recovery time is about six to eight months for the ligament to heal. Right now, I’m recovering and beating the odds, but once it happened—the very moment it happened—I knew exactly what it was. I felt the snap. It actually felt like if someone took a hammer and hit you right in the knee. So once I was able to get off the floor and sit down, I started mentally preparing myself for the road ahead.
EBONY: Immediately after? Where do you get that kind of mental toughness?
EC: It started at home as a kid, growing up in Patterson. Nothing ever came easy. I had a lot of dreams and goals as a kid, so I had to be mentally tough to not fall by the wayside, to not fall into the things other people fell into. I give the credit for that to my grandparents and my mom. They raised me to not let anything stop me. This injury will not stop me, and now that I’m recovering, my creative side is coming out even more.
EBONY: How long have you been considering this move into making music?
EC: I’ve always been musical. I started playing the piano and saxophone when I was around 9. I played throughout high school, then taught myself to play drums and the electric bass. I went on to study music in college as well. When it comes to rapping, I didn’t want to only be able to play music, but also have lyrical content that would carry a message and evoke emotion in people.
EBONY: What has it been like developing both your talent on the court and your musical gifts?
EC: I’ve been balancing both since I was young. I started playing basketball for an organized team when I was 11, so I’ve always had to balance both. At that time, music had the upper hand because I was always studying it. It wasn’t until college that things really shifted because there was so much focus on basketball. That’s how I was paying my tuition!
EBONY: Who are your major musical influences?
EC: I love Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles. I remember when I was a kid I would play with my eyes closed because I wanted to be like Stevie Wonder. I’m involved in hip-hop, so of course I look up to artists like Jay-Z, MC Lyte and Missy Elliott. In terms of influences, I look to pretty much anyone that has made his or her mark. J. Cole, I got his album the other day. I really like him. As a former basketball player, he makes a lot of references to the game.
EBONY: What projects are you working on now?
EC: I have two singles out. One is “Love Letter.” I produced the track. It’s about the ups and down of relationships. Everyone can relate to that. The second song is called “Hater.” It’s has that southern trap sound to it. Everyone says they have haters, but everything I rap about is something I’ve gone through or seen. The next single to come out is called “Bye.” I produced that one too. It’s about telling the people, the leaches that want to be around you for the limelight, to get out your life.
EBONY: You describe your music as being inspired by your real life; the album is called Broken Diary. What inspired your honesty?
EC: I’m just not a fake person. There’s no façade. I’m a regular, normal person. I might have a job that’s very different than most others, but I’m still a human being and go through the same things everyone else does. On the album, there’s a song for every emotion. I think that’s important, because music gets people through a lot of their problems.
EBONY: People talk often about hip-hop being hostile to women, specifically female MCs. Do you agree?
EC: I feel like, especially since I live in New York, it’s survival of the fittest. Everyone makes it seem like there’s only room for one woman. But if you remember, in the ’90s there were female MCs galore, much more like the male side of the game. Over time that changed. Everyone wants to be the first lady. I’m just coming into the game wanting to make good music. That’s just what I do. I’m not going to sit here and rap about the next female MC. I have no desire to do that. I’m a competitor at heart. If there’s only room for one, then I’m going to work toward being that one.